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

For me it was important to be at a university where students are supported and not just numbers filling a classroom. When I came to visit QMU for the first time I liked the small size of the University, which immediately made it feel like a community. When I spoke with students coming from different countries and lecturers at the open day, I had the impression that QMU was inclusive and that there was not a hierarchy, meaning that approaching lecturers was not intimidating or hard. These are the reasons that four years ago convinced me to study at QMU, and these are still the reasons that, in my opinion, make QMU a great place to study.

What interested you about the BSc (Hons) Nutrition?

I was keen on the BSc (Hons) Nutrition at QMU because of its wide breadth of modules exploring the different aspects of nutrition (e.g. clinical science and public health) and not focusing on only one aspect. Moreover, the course is accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN), meaning that after graduation, I will be eligible to join the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) via the direct entry application pathway.

Why attracted you to study in Edinburgh?

I come from a small town in Italy, so I had always thought that living in a city was not for me. However, Edinburgh changed my mind. Edinburgh is a vibrant city, there is always something to do and there are plenty of great cafes and pubs where you can meet with your friends. Being very active in the outdoors, I was pleasantly surprised by the many parks around the city, and by the easily accessible and beautiful places outside the city (e.g. the Highlands, Cramond Island and Queensferry). Furthermore, Scottish people are very friendly, and in Edinburgh it does not rain as much as people say.

What did you most enjoy about your course? 

One of the highlights of the course was the opportunity in third and fourth years to meet a vast number of professionals from all different fields of nutrition. I found it inspiring to listen to one of my lecturers talking about her experience in the field of community projects and a visiting lecturer about her experience in food policy. These two seminars gave more structure to my plans post-graduation and helped me to better understand what I could achieve during my time as a student.

How did your lecturers support your learning?

My lecturers have been very supportive throughout the course. During the first year of the course I did not know whether it was appropriate to ask for a meeting to have a chat about my career plans – because these were not questions about a lecture. But I was wrong. Lecturers want you to do well, and not just in terms of marks, but also in terms on your wellbeing and your student experience, therefore, they like to see your interest and are willing to help you. For example, two of my lecturers knew I was seeking experience in health promotion, so thanks to their help I got to participate in two presentations - one to a primary school in Edinburgh and one for the NHS.

Were you a part of any extracurricular programmes during your time as a student at QMU?

During my time as a student I have enjoyed trying different extracurricular activities to gain hands-on experience. I have started by volunteering as a helper at QMU for laboratory activities with children from primary schools, which gave me the opportunity to learn how to tailor my knowledge for a very young public. Then, thanks to one of my lecturers, I came across Cyrenians, a charity working with people at risk of becoming homeless. Volunteering with them as a cooking assistant for their cooking classes had been an eye-opening experience. Meeting people from different paths of life truly made me appreciate the importance of the right to healthy food. Eating healthy is not an option when you do not have the cooking knowledge, skills, equipment and/or the means to buy food. There are just so many variables influencing people’s diet, and many of these depend on the environment where we live. So, I decided I wanted to be part of the change by working in the community. I then also started to volunteer with People Know How, a charity developing and delivering plans to support communities.

One more eye-opening experience has been joining in the QMU Mentoring Programme. I would recommend this experience to every student, because having a mentor has been game changer. Shadowing my mentor during some of her work meetings at the Scottish Parliament and with the AfN were unique opportunities. Her expertise and passion for nutrition have been a great inspiration to me and have deepened my interest in working in the field of food policy.

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

Marks are important, but what you do in your extracurricular time not only enriches your CV, it helps you to explore the many available opportunities and create a network, which can help you understand what you like the most. You would be surprised to see where an email, a seminar or an informal chat can lead you to. If you want to make the most of being a student, do not be afraid to ask questions, do reach out, and always show up. 

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

My plans are to gain more experience in the field of health promotion and eventually to work in food policy. However, as for many of us, my post-graduation plans have been temporarily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, there are still opportunities out there, so I have simply re-routed my path to make the most of them. I have recently started an internship with a nutrition website, from which I am learning how to write evidence-based articles addressed to the general public and how to create new personal relationships with food companies. I have also started a job as care assistant. This has been a totally new experience for me, which has proven to be tougher than I thought it would be. However, learning how to assist vulnerable people, getting to know them and being able to make a positive change in their lives, make all the efforts worth it. Although this does not reflect my original post-graduation plan, I feel very lucky to be a part of these projects, and I look forward to improving my skills and knowledge to put them at service of people in my career.