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Comment: 'As a student, you get out what you put in - so put in'

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In a past life, before I started my degree, I worked for a bank. I was passive and went with the flow. I simply couldn’t be bothered

I did just enough to get by. I knew that this career wasn’t right for me so I had to make a change. I got a different job and did a bit of volunteering and this lead me to start my nursing degree. And it was the best thing I have ever done.

If I can do it, anyone can.

I recently co-lead a student committee that organised a conference for first-year students from across Scotland. It was a huge project working in conjunction with NHS Education for Scotland (NES). I never thought for a second that I could do anything like that but, as it turns out, you get out what you put in. I know that may not shock you but it took me a while to figure it out.

In the first year of my degree, University sparked something in me. Suddenly, I could be bothered. I was interested. I didn’t quite know what to do with my newfound enthusiasm. At first I ignored the emails I was sent that offered volunteering opportunities with the University and beyond, because that’s what many of us do, right?

But then I took the plunge and signed up.

In second-year I volunteered at events for the Dementia Champions and a conference on curriculum development. I only had to give up a few days and got a tremendous amount in return. It turns out (some) lecturers can be inspiring and push you to do things that you never thought you were capable of. Spending time in and around the University, talking to all sorts of people - canteen staff, lecturers, students - helped me to feel part of something wider.

And now I am in my third year. I clearly don’t have enough work to do as when a lecturer approached me with an opportunity to help organise a conference I jumped at the chance to hold a few doors open and tell folk where the toilets were.

At least that’s what I thought I’d be doing. I was wrong.

The student committee had many sleepless nights. We organised speakers, stalls, goody bags, workshops and a video as well as an organisational name, logo and vision. The role involved lots of travelling and seemingly endless planning meetings. It was simply brilliant. I really cannot recommend volunteering highly enough.

It’s okay to feel like you are not good or confident enough to explore these things - many of us feel the same. However, now is the time to act. University is a safe environment to find out who you are and subsequently, perhaps what kind of nurse you are going to be.

Speak to your lecturers. Shout out in class. Say the wrong thing. Just get involved.

Steven Young is a third-year mental health student nurse, University of the West of Scotland.

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