Today began with a chat with a technology coordinater to learn more about the roles within the IAR team. She told me about her position a a clinical audiologist and that she specialises in technology surrounding deafness. A big part of her role is to introduce supportive technology into the lives of deafblind people as innovative new products become available and social media expands.
At eleven I then had another meeting with a member of the IAR team. The lady I spoke to holds a senior position in the IAR team and is in charge of the flow if enquiries that come into Sense and delegates these to the appropriate people. She told me about the importance of a strong, dedicated and informed team and the difference this makes to the lives of deafblind individuals and their families. Her strategic aims include increasing access to information, promoting integrated advice from across the organisation to include the various departments such as legality, respite care etc, and an assurance on equality such as the information standard.
In the afternoon I had a meeting with a member of Sense International (SI). SI influence various bodies of power including the House of Commons, NGOs and MPs. This helps to shape international policy and support countries to influence their own governments. The countries which SI help include Kenya, Tanzania, India, Romania, Peru, and Bangladesh. The SI team aim to help countries become self sufficient in their support for deafblind people, a project which is starting to become successful in India where it’s own trustees have gained more control to organically improve the situations. An important tactic for the SI team to show countries is the way in which the biggest way to reach deafblind individuals is through teachers. By these teachers learning how to best teach and communicate with deafblind children, a cycle of appropriate care and support can begin. Learning centres powered by NGOs and community officers provide rehabilitation to deafblind people. With various religious and cultural factors contributing to the sensitivity of the issue of disabilities in different countries, any external and especially Western intervenors must be highly respectful of customs and traditions. I was talked through the processes of each country, from the larger programmes to smaller ones. The SI team in Romania for example is built up of only four people. Early intervention is praised for its effects, with screening at hospitals from the early ages of deafblind children and vocational programmes proving very important to bettering the understanding and support of disabilities. SI also place great importance on advocacy. They work with governments to ensure that legislation is in place to protect and enhance the rights of deafblind people in countries where their voices may have otherwise gone unheard.
My day finished with a health and safety tour of the building, which was not purpose built to accommodate disabled people but rather adapted to do so. This includes a wider lift and corridors to enable wheelchair access and fire alarms which also include flashing wall lights and vibrating buzzers for any deafblind people that come into the building should there be an emergency. This dynamic workplace makes a great effort to include disabled or sensory impaired people from the beginning of any projects right through to its publications and events.
The day ended with a visit from my parents! We had dinner at Canonbury Kitchen in Islington. It was really lovely to have some family time having been away from them for a while.
As a student adjusting from what I call the (relatively) ‘carefree existence’ of university life and also, a delightful kick back into reality from a long summer vacation, I’ve acquired a few tasteful things that I’ve learnt not to trust after my first week of work placement.
- My biological body clock:
As a girl who naturally cannot fall asleep before the ungodly hours of 2-3am, I have learnt with blissful regret about the trials of having to wake up for work at 7 in the morning. Even if I climb into bed at 11-12pm for at least a decent 7 hours of sleep, my brain goes into overdrive, thinking that now is the absolute perfect time to think about everything and anything that could be of less relevance to me at this moment in time. No wonder, I find myself growling at my alarm the following morning before eventually crawling like the evil undead for a decent caffeine kick before work.
For my personal well-being (and the safety of anyone who encounters 'morning Valerie' en route to work) it’s probably best not to carry on this way. If you have a low HP-level like mine, you'll definitely end up crashing the moment the weekend begins on a Friday afternoon... snoozing face-first onto your bed at barely 7pm.
Suffer I may, I’m slowly working on the art of falling asleep (like hitting the gym to tire me out before bedtime, ‘toddler style’) – but if you're curious about it, here are some other quirky tips for falling asleep.
- Free coffee:
My dysfunctional sleeping pattern creates a vicious cycle for me, inevitably feeding my love for coffee. No surprise, I was absolutely thrilled to be shown the office kitchen and subsequently, informed to help myself at any time to a tonne of free coffee choices. You guessed it, coffee addiction + free coffee = accident waiting to happen.
Though you may get the initial buzz of energy, wakening you up, fuelling your concentration and allowing you to power through your workload, my lack of natural energy meant this was often short-lived, and accompanied by various side effects such as the hot cheeks, the leg shakes and the feeling of extreme sleepiness once the caffeine has run its course. I was feeling in need of a slight ween-off. Now every time I’m offered a cup of coffee I let it pass – for a while.
The gold doubloons! Unfortunately, we can't really live without them...
Though us students may receive a loan and an amazing first-hand experience on working in the field of Psychology, it’s easy to forget that most (if not, all) Psychology placements are unpaid. This is understandable as Psychologists themselves struggle for the funds to stimulate their research and with the NHS budgeting their costs - consequently, most employers are in the common position of not being able to pay students. This left me in somewhat of a predicament… and with a typical 9-5 working placement, I didn’t really feel like I could handle an extra part-time job to help with living costs. After rent, bills, a bus pass (for which prices are extortion, by the way) I felt like I was beginning a downward spiral. I pictured myself sitting alone in a dim lit dining room with a can of basics tuna or rationing a slice of bread to void off ultimate starvation.
But money is money and if you're feeling the burn, the best way around this is to really budget your funds (try using student phone apps ie. My Student Budget Planner or other sites), avoid buying anything unnecessary (like that lavish next season fur coat, obviously joking), communal shopping with flatmates/housemates (e.g. to share food or domestic items), maybe even talking to your personal tutor or finance adviser and just making sure that your spending counts. Luckily, the office gifted me with a tin of biscuits upon my induction and I had no shame in devouring the entire thing in one day.
Moving from London, where the buses usually arrive every 5 minutes, and from Bath, where the buses often come at the time stated on the timetable – Bristol public transport was not making my start to placement any easier. In fact, I felt like they were out to get me. What should have been a 15/20 minute bus journey to work, became elongated to an exasperating waiting game where I stared intensely at the corner of the road where the bus should magically appear, but alas, the bus an hour before work and the bus half an hour before work were a complete no show. It was southwest bus transport – 1, me - 0.
Sweating and short of breath in the office, after having madly powerwalked from the bus stop (sprinting would have eliminated all my dignity), a wise lady at her desk all-knowingly cooed ‘Never trust the bus.’ Words I shall never forget.
Though I may feel robbed of a few minutes extra sleep or showering time, a full hour and a half at the bus stop before work starts should really be enough time to keep me fashionably punctual... unless the southwest bus was doing a best out of 5.
A nice short one to rest your eyes from all the reading; do not trust work computers. Not everyone gets the luxury of a flashy Mac computer, with supremely high speed internet and no screen-freeze guarantee (I already told you that they’re budgeting), so make sure you consistently save your work in order to avoid the classic ‘losing 10 pages of notes, written at a legendary standard’ because your work computer decided to reboot at its own accord.
- A mainstream ‘night out’:
Excuse me for sounding cynical, but I’ve never really been a fan of mainstream club ‘jams’ or pop music - maybe I just wasn't built to have fun this way? Therefore, I had pretty much confirmed my attendance for ‘meeting drinks’ hoping to encounter other University of Bath students working in Bristol. After a drink and an evening stroll along the Bristol docks I’d achieved my mission in the game of socialisation, as well as escaped the grasps of potential loner-ism by gaining a few acquaintances.
The course of the rest of the night is as follows: I lost everyone, I met some friendly people and I questioned the music.
As it turns out, all acquaintances I’d made had communally called it an early night without my knowledge, and as I hadn’t yet exchanged numbers with anybody… I was beyond social reach during a spontaneous trip to the bathroom. But if you make the best of any opportunity, you’ll try to have fun anyway – even if you’re on your own. In my case, I found myself standing very confused, idly still and bang centre of an aggressively bouncing crowd, often getting struck by an anonymous limb. I most vividly remember staring at the plasma screen backdrop of neon donkeys (I kid you not), then up at the DJ with a raised brow, and the internal thought ‘What on earth is going on?’ I swiftly decided that the scene was not for me, and in the true heart of being young… I’ll make the best of the next opportunity.
On the flipside, one thing I've learnt to love starting placement are the Psychology related jokes cleverly inter-weaved into daily office dialogue and said with a touch of witty professionalism. Now part of my job is to get to know how to join in.
Today I had a meeting with the events team to discuss how Information, Advice and Research can help them. We talked about how a knowledge bank would have practicality in the organisation and about the different important dates in the Sense calendar. Days like this are useful as they offer insight into the work of different departments and you start to gain perspective of the scope of projects across an organisation.
Today was the first day of me beginning to type up conference notes from an international deafblind conference which was attended by Sense staff members. Although this may seem boring, opportunities like this mean you get to learn various terms and are given insights into the job whilst continuing to do your work.
As part of the Information, Advice and Research (IAR) team it is also important for me to learn how to make documents accessible to deafblind people in a range of formats to accommodate people’s different needs. A really useful piece of material for this is the WCAG, which I also looked further into today.
At three o’clock I had a meeting with the Head of Information, Advice and Research. They manage the IAR team which includes the frontline of the team of enquirers, links to the wider audience surrounding deafblindess, a number of specialist teams, raising the awareness of offered information and links to knowledge pushing information elsewhere. During the meeting I start to realise the support that technologies can offer deafblind people in the form of kindles, apple products and more traditional products such as the refreshing Braille displays.
Key questions I took from this meeting were what is it that a deafblind person wants to do, and what is it that they have to have someone do for them?
Moving into a new apartment is exciting, but never easy – and moving alone to an entirely new city is another story. From the craziness of London, to the peaceful Bath, I find myself on new turf for the next year.
While I hear about fellow undergraduates travelling the lengths of the Earth, from America, Australia to Africa and beyond, I ask myself – do you know where you are?
Bristol is well-acclaimed as one of Britain’s most populated and diverse cities, with a bustling hub of thriving artists and musicians – I couldn’t wait to discover a legion of music, street art, and even stumble upon quirky shops in the backstreets of the city. I could picture myself as an urban explorer of this very cultural city.
The first day after my move was a quiet one, spent walking hours on any street I had not yet learned, browsing small second-hand bookstores, and then hauling bits of furniture back to my empty apartment before a rewarding cup of coffee.
Throughout my degree, I had never been able to restrict myself to any one field of Psychology until research on substance abuse particularly pricked my interests - consequently, leading me to acquire a work placement with the NHS, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust.
To my advantage, the UK National Health Service boasts its current position as the third largest employer in the world… of course, after the Chinese Army and Railway services - with the Bristol area recognised as providing the best and most specialist services for people struggling with substance abuse and associated mental illness. In this sense, I feel as if my placement is one of the best places to be able to learn and develop my knowledge on how therapy really works in a clinical setting, rather than just reading about it in the textbooks..
I have many high expectations before I start work, and believe I am starting with a quaint, naïve enthusiasm towards meeting clients, learning about various therapies and aiding towards clients’ personal recovery. Gearing to go, I surely look forward to seeing if my expectations are closer to reality, than not.
It's my first Saturday in London, time to explore!
Meat Liquor is one of my most favourite restaurants. My best friend from university travelled to London from her placement near Reading for a catch up. This place is dark, blasts rock music and serves huge burgers, chilli fries and loaded hotdogs all on one tray. Things get a little messy but it’s also part of the fun to get stuck into things!
Today was a follow on from yesterdays briefings as I began the aforementioned projects. I begin to learn that the best way to undergo any work is much like it is in University, beginning with thorough academic investigation and tracking any changes or suggestions to keep a running tab of organisation.
On my second day at Sense I was taken through the upcoming projects that I will be assisting my boss with. This list includes work surrounding vision care for deafblind children, research into Charles Bonnet syndrome regarding deafblindness and writing up publications surrounding conferences and workshops attended by Sense staff.
Today was the first day of my placement year at the deafblind charity Sense. Sense is a national charity which campaigns for children and adults who are deafblind as well as offering high-quality, flexible services across the United Kingdom through the help of skilled staff and dedicated volunteers.
I am a Knowledge Coordination Volunteer, and part of the Information, Advice and Research team, which includes roles such as disseminating important information regarding deafblindness and monitoring material such as research papers, journal articles, publications, links to websites, conference papers, legislation documents and best practice documentation.
The day started with me collecting my entrance and exist fob to get in and out of the building, important for knowing staff numbers inside the building should there be any sort of emergency. I was then taken on a tour of the different floors, which includes meeting rooms, different departments, and the locations of the kitchens-where I imagine lots of teas and coffees will be made! I was then shown my email outlook, the staff intranet and various webpages that will become useful throughout the course of my placement. I was given a workplace booklet to work through to teach me some of the basic principles of the organisation as well as what is acceptable and not acceptable in the workplace.
The two girls undergoing public policy placements for Sense, also from the University of Bath (and on my course!) took me to lunch at the Japanese takeaway Itsu. It was really welcoming of them and they filled me in on the vibes around the office as well as some useful tips as they started a month ago.
Good first day!