My feelings of a slightly different first year.

#hellomynameis Shannon, I’m a first-year student who unfortunately had their first year cut short due to the current pandemic. It feels so surreal that when I return to uni I’ll be a second year. Nevertheless, first year has been a whirlwind and I am here to talk about the feelings I had throughout this year. And boy, there were a lot of them! So, let’s just get started.

To start with I moved five hours away from a tiny town in Cornwall to join Surrey and that posed so many emotions in itself. I worried how my family would cope without me. I have two disabled siblings, which is part of the reason why I chose paediatrics in the first place, whose care I played a huge role in. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to afford the train fares to come home frequently and that homesickness would play on my mind so often. But at the same time, I chose this university for a reason, and I felt so ready to move away and start this new chapter. Yes, moving away can be difficult, but luckily, I’ve settled in so well and made so many friends that I would now consider family – that’s both from healthcare courses and others!

The feeling of excitement and anxiousness went hand in hand throughout first year; everything was so new and that both excited and terrified me to no end. I remember walking into my first simulation class and feeling like a spare part. It felt like my peers had so much more experience than I did and unfortunately that fear of not quite being good enough caused me to hold back from engaging in learning opportunities for the first few sessions. Luckily the lecturers noticed this right away and encouraged me to voice my opinions in class and answer as many questions as possible, even if I got them wrong. After all, first year is all new. It’s a safe space to ask questions and make mistakes. It’s the only way to learn.

Once I was settled in there was an overwhelming feeling of belonging and unity throughout the September 2019 cohort. I loved that for the first term all healthcare students were mixed. For a start I had the opportunity to make friends with paramedics, midwives, mental health and adult nurses. Some of my closest friends being on these courses. Secondly, it was such an amazing learning opportunity to see roles from their point of view. Not once have I ever felt out of place or unwanted and that helped my confidence immensely. That support from my peers and lectures was exactly what I needed to help me realise that I was successful in my interview for a reason. I am a student nurse at the University of Surrey for a reason, and I deserved to be here.

The amount of support that was/is available stands out the most for me. From my lectures, peers, personal tutor, locality staff, to students my senior and actors in the sim suite, everyone was always putting in 100% and willing to help whatever the situation was. I remember being terrified about starting placement. To the point where my peers would discuss it and my heart would instantly drop. As much as I wanted to go out into practice there was something holding me back, and I was unsure what it was. However, the staff prepared us so well. They gave us sessions in the sim suite, with the sim actors, induction days at the trust and so much more. They told us what would be expected of us as first years and the induction days gave us a little glimpse of what life is like on the wards which eased my anxiety so much. Although my placement was cancelled for first year, due to Covid19, I can confidently say that by the time I was scheduled to go out into practice I felt ready. And most importantly I was excited for it. I wanted to go out. The university prepared us so welland I cannot wait to go out in second year.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt terrified in most things I did in the simulation suite and the wards, but I also felt so excited and had such a sense of fulfilment once I had completed them. I really was like an excited little puppy following the lecturers around, observing the second- and third-year students and attending any workshops I could get my hands on. I often compared myself to the second and third years. Not in a negative way, in a comforting way, actually. Multiple times I told myself that these students, who know so much and seem so confident in their skills, were once exactly like me. Scared, curious and eager to learn. If they can do it so can I.

First year has been life changing. I’ve overcome emotions I didn’t think was possible and I’ve put myself out there more times than I can count. My confidence has grown in so many ways and this wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t pushed to be a better nurse. I am proud to call myself a student nurse at the University of Surrey.

First year, you’ve been a blast.

Second year… I’m ready for ya!

Author: Shannon Bennett, Year 1 Student

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

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