Growing up on a vineyard in Switzerland with a father as winemaker and a mother who grew wonderful fruit and veg in their garden helped develop Charlotte Guidi’s passion for food and health from a young age. Throughout her childhood she became very aware of where her food came from and its nutritional impact on health and wellbeing. That initial grounding spurred her on to develop a food related career, initially pursing an apprenticeship to become a baker/pastry chef which led to a decade working in the food industry. Studying the science side of food seemed like the next logical step which whetted her appetite to further her learning on the impact of diet on health. A move to Scotland eventually led Charlotte to the BSc (Hons) Nutrition, which allowed her to not only deepen her understanding of food science, but enabled her to study areas of nutrition that were of particular interest to her and would help her to shape her future career. Charlotte talks to us about her experience of the course, placement at Waitrose, student experience and her love for Edinburgh.

Why did you choose to study at Queen Margaret University (QMU)?

In deciding where to study, QMU stood out because of its proximity to my home, which I felt would help me balance my academic and personal life. QMU's solid reputation for excellence in nutrition aligned perfectly with my career aspirations, and the University's emphasis on practical learning seemed the right approach to equip me with the skills needed to work in the field. I was also very excited when I heard about the development of the Innovation Hub on the land around the campus, which may offer opportunities to QMU alumni, once it’s finished.

What interested you about the BSc (Hons) Nutrition?

QMU’s Nutrition course offered a comprehensive curriculum, covering various aspects of nutrition science following an evidence-based approach, which was very important for me. Additionally, the fact the course included hands-on laboratory experience and a placement was a plus, as it added a practical dimension to my learning.

What attracted you to study in Edinburgh?

I moved here in 2013 to be with my partner. Edinburgh, with its rich cultural heritage, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant community, quickly became a place I not only loved but also considered my home. Studying in Edinburgh allowed me to integrate my academic pursuits with a lifestyle that resonated with my values, which made the overall learning experience more enriching and fulfilling.

What have you most enjoyed about your course?

What I've most enjoyed about my course is the flexibility and autonomy it provides, especially during this final year. Combining work with studies has been easier than anticipated. Having the opportunity to choose my own research topics, particularly with the dissertation in third year and the Honours project this year, has been a highlight, as it has allowed me to explore areas of personal interest.

Have you participated in a course activity you found especially interesting?

Yes, a particularly interesting course activity in my final year involved designing a nutrition intervention for a specific community. This exercise allowed me to apply the theoretical concepts learned throughout my course to a real-world scenario, developing practical skills in creating impactful and tailored nutrition strategies. While only a hypothetical intervention, I found the process rewarding and it made me realise that this might be the direction I may want to go in in my future professional career.

How have your lecturers supported your learning?

The lecturers at QMU have always been very approachable and willing to engage with students both inside and outside the classroom, creating a supportive learning environment. Their genuine passion for the subject has made the learning experience enriching and enjoyable.

What have been some of your challenges and how have you overcome them?

The end of each semester has been particularly stressful. To overcome this, I've learned to establish a balanced schedule, to set realistic goals, and to prioritise self-care to manage stress more effectively.

Have you taken part in a placement as part of your course and if so, what was your experience?

"In third year, I did a placement with the nutrition team at Waitrose. The placement helped me gain valuable knowledge of behaviour change, marketing strategies for promotion of healthy eating, product reformulation, and food policies. This practical experience made me understand the critical role food retail nutritionists play in linking the food industry with public health."

Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in applying for this course?

My advice would be to make sure you have a genuine interest in nutrition. The initial two years may be challenging as they are quite science-heavy, so having a genuine interest will make the journey more rewarding. Embrace the scientific aspect, stay curious, and recognise that perseverance pays off, especially as the later years become more focused on the core topics of the field. Additionally, look out for volunteering opportunities and stay informed about current issues in nutrition, as it will enrich your learning experience.

Have you been a part of any extracurricular programmes as a student at QMU?

Yes, during each summer break in my time at QMU, I actively sought volunteering opportunities. I also got in touch with Registered Nutritionists from diverse backgrounds and work sectors to get insights into what they do and how they got there. These experiences have complemented my academic learning, giving me practical skills and hands-on experiences, and a broader perspective of what my options will be when I graduate.

What QMU student services have you used to support you through your university journey?

In first year, I took Academic English classes with the Effective Learning Service, as English is not my first language and academic writing was completely new to me. This proved very useful, and I’d recommend non-native English speakers, who are new to academia, use this service. I also used the Wellbeing Service over one summer which was particularly challenging for me. The opportunity to speak with a counsellor without enduring a waiting list and at no cost was invaluable. I'm so grateful that QMU provides this service, as it played a crucial role in supporting me during that period.

Did you attend an Open Day/Offer Holder day before coming to QMU?

"I attended an in-person Open Day at QMU, which comforted me in my decision to study there. The visit allowed me to confirm my impressions of the university, interact with other offer holders, and gain a better understanding of the campus environment. It served as a reassuring confirmation that I had chosen a university that aligns well with my academic and personal goals."

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

Embrace all the support available to you. Whether it's academic resources, mentorship, or mental health services, taking advantage of the assistance offered can enhance your overall university experience. Additionally, prioritise a balanced lifestyle by ensuring you make time for adequate sleep, maintain good nutrition, engage in regular physical activity, and foster social connections. Consistently addressing these aspects contributes to your well-being and positively impacts your academic journey.

What has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at university?

It's never too late to learn and achieve what I set out to do. The experience has shown me the resilience within myself and reinforced the idea that with dedication and determination, I can overcome challenges and pursue my goals at any stage in life.

What are you plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?

After graduation, I am excited about exploring various opportunities within the field of nutrition. While I don't have a specific plan yet, I am eager to apply the knowledge and skills gained during my time at QMU to real-world scenarios. I believe that by remaining open to different possibilities, I can discover the areas of nutrition that truly resonate with my passions and strengths. Whether it's engaging in research, community outreach, or industry roles, I am looking forward to embracing the journey post-graduation and seeing where these experiences take me.