Emma Rodrigues studies Occupational Therapy at undergraduate level. We asked her a series of questions to find out more about her experiences at University. Emma has immersed herself in every opportunity provided, and sourced so many more – from studying abroad, volunteering, presenting at conferences, and being a society advocate. Read her inspirational stories.
Studying at university is about stretching and challenging our students. How has your experience at Derby stretched and challenged you?
The University has given me so much comfort, support and strength in my public speaking skills that I have now presented at two international conferences abroad. My lecturers encouraged me to submit an abstract, and once it was accepted, they gave me so much support to ensure my presentations were suited to me.
At the conferences, the staff were really supportive by either being there with me or giving me space to explore things by myself but ensuring they were close by if I needed anything. They also gave myself and other students lots of information on external activities and put us in the right environment to network if we wished, this really helps, as it means you are part of a community outside of the University.
How do you feel studying at Derby has transformed you? Think about whether you have changed academically, personally, or professionally and how your lecturers/tutors have contributed to and encouraged that.
I will walk out of university a totally different person to the version of me who walked in on her first day. My lecturers saw something in me that I never knew was there. They have gently nurtured me into someone with so much passion. There are so many other opportunities around the University for growth such as involvement with the Careers and Employment Service, Student Ambassador roles, within the Union of Students, the list is endless.
Through continued supervision, tutorials and general encouragement, my confidence has grown. Constant support and words of encouragement have enabled me to have the confidence to become President of the Occupational Therapy Society and become a part of a European Student Platform for Occupational Therapy.
And do you feel you’ve had academic support from your teachers when you needed it? How have they supported you to develop both academically and personally?
My lecturers have been the biggest support to me, they have taught me so much about life as well as all of the academic parts of the course. They have noticed when I have been struggling, giving me their time, they have been so patient with me in my toughest times and have also been there to support me in my best times. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
They understand the students so well, if you are struggling academically or personally, they encourage you in the right way. They have a great skill of not directly telling you how to improve but instead work to sew the seed and put you in the right environment to grow. The Union of Students and none academic staff are also a huge support, they are all part of the Derby community and really care about you.
I felt like at the start of my university experience, the lecturers held us quite close but slowly released us into independence. I grew the independence to complete a volunteer placement abroad in Ghana – alone. I also had the confidence to train as a dance instructor to support those with disabilities. I decided to do all this myself, but before going to university, I would never have even dreamed of putting myself forward for such things.
Your degree is only part of the story. What happens next is crucial in terms of jobs, careers, future study and adventures in the wider world. How has the University of Derby helped you prepare for life after University?
I have been accepted onto a European Occupational Therapy masters degree which means I will be studying Occupational Therapy in different countries around Europe. I have also been lucky enough to secure a job in occupational therapy that will run perfectly alongside it. I honestly could never have seen myself being able to do this. This shows how much of an impact the University of Derby has had on me personally and academically. I have so much more ambition and confidence to take opportunities – I am so lucky to have had the University of Derby behind me.
Have we given you unexpected opportunities, or changed the way you think about yourself or your future? Can you explain what these were and how they changed things for you?
There have been so many opportunities – presenting at national and international conferences, being part of a European Student Platform for Occupational Therapy, being president of the Occupational Therapy society, volunteering abroad, through adaptive dance and running care farming groups to name a few. I am so lucky to have such amazing experiences and opportunities.
Volunteering and working on all these projects has given me so much more than I could ever give back. I have a totally different outlook on life, I just want to make the most of every opportunity and make the best of myself. I never used to believe in the phrase ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’. I would never let anything, or anyone get in my way now – and that is a life-changing thing.
The DRIVEN programme is the University of Derby’s GRADS for D2N2 project. The GRADS for D2N2 project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and is part of the ESF High Level Skills programme. The programme is delivered by the University of Derby as part of the High Level Skills consortium which also includes Nottingham Trent University, Derby College, Nottingham College, and Nottingham City Council.