Kirsten Stewart, from Dumfries and Galloway, has had a passion for food since her early teens when she worked in a kitchen. She also knew she wanted to work with children, and developed a keen interest in the health of young people during her time studying on the BA (Hons) Nutrition at Queen Margaret University.

Helping to tackle the obesity problem in Scotland is something that is close to Kirsten’s heart, so when she discovered that Queen Margaret University was going to be running a new postgraduate degree in Home Economics, she jumped at the opportunity of a place. Earlier on in life she had thought about a career as a Home Economics teacher, so she was overjoyed that the PGDE Secondary (Home Economics) would allow her to follow her passion of teaching kids about the important impact that food can have on their lives.

Kirsten excelled in her undergraduate degree graduating from QMU in 2020 with BSc (Hons) Nutrition (First Class). She then moved swiftly on to the PGDE Secondary (Home Economics) and graduated from QMU 2021.

She tells us more about her experience of the course.

The Course 

What did you enjoy most about your course(s)? What were some of the highlights?

From my Nutrition course I particularly enjoyed learning about the nutrition needed at different stages of life, and all the health inequalities that are currently faced within society today. On my Home Economics postgraduate degree I particularly enjoyed researching sustainability, and the policies which are currently used in schools to create a more sustainable future. But most of all, I really enjoyed gaining hands-on experience during our placements in secondary schools. My various placements allowed me to work on areas which I felt I needed to further develop before becoming a teacher, for example, the face to face teaching helped improve my confidence. Support from school mentors and lectures really encouraged me to develop a passion for educating our young people of the future, and have given me the confidence to do so. ‘Everyday is a school day’ was the motto I used, constantly learning from those working alongside me in the departments and my fellow classmates.

Did you participate in any special activities as part of your course, and were they beneficial?

This year, I was a class rep for the PGDE Home Economics course.

I had been class rep in the 4th year of my undergraduate nutrition course, but as that year was impacted by the pandemic, I wanted to get the whole year’s experience by taking on the role again during my postgraduate year. This opportunity allowed me to build stronger relationships with classmates and lecturers, and help ensure everyone was getting the support they needed. This role also helped develop my leadership skills, as one day I hope to progress in my career, possibly becoming principal teacher of my subject or depute head or even head teacher!

How did your lecturers support your learning?

The lecturers were fantastic in their support of students - always being there to listen to any concerns, and sharing their opinions and strategies to help guide students through the course. Lecturers were keen to push us to the best of our abilities, and provided many opportunities for us to learn. I particularly liked the different teaching methods they used -  especially when the majority of our classes were online learning due to the global pandemic -  this helped many of us to stay focused and ensured we were engaged with the tasks.

What challenges did you face with the course or university life? How did you overcome them?

For me the greatest challenge of coming to university was not having my parents or fiends near by. Coming from a rather rural area to a bustling city certainly was a shock to the system. However, don’t let home sickness put you off, leaving home to go to university was the best decision I ever made, having two great degrees and a future career that I always dreamed off, it is certainly worth it.

Can you tell us a little about your placement experiences?

Covid-19 had a large impact on my placement, however I only missed out on three weeks placement after Christmas as a whole. School was certainly weird -  pupils were in on a rotation to complete senior course work, so it felt rather empty. However, the few quiet weeks were used to develop my online learning skills, by marking and recording pupils’ homework, and marking of coursework. My time of teaching within schools allowed me to fully understand the current practices within the education sector. I absolutely loved both my placements. My schools provided invaluable feedback, and the connections I made whilst I was there, I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in taking either of these courses?

If you have a real interest in food I’d highly recommend the BSc/BSc (Hons) Nutrition at Queen Margaret University. The course allowed me to develop my knowledge in an area that was of particular interest to me, and with nutrition, there are so many career options available to you – it makes it even more exciting! The PGDE course is a fast-paced course and pushes you to your limits with time constraints. It also really tests your ability to plan and organise. However, the fast-pace course is similar to the lifestyle of a teacher and really prepares you for life in the profession.

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

Always work hard but still make time for self care and the student social life! 

After graduation 

What are your plans for life after graduation?

As from August 2021 I will begin my teaching post at Keith Grammar School, in Moray! As a student who ticked the box to teach anywhere, I am so excited to go to a part of Scotland which I have never visited!

"My time of teaching within schools allowed me to fully understand the current practices within the education sector. I absolutely loved both my placements. My schools provided invaluable feedback, and the connections I made whilst I was there, I hope to maintain for the rest of my life."
Kirsten Stewart

[posted in July 2021]