carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Navigating the unknown

MSc Sport & Exercise Nutrition student, Beth Vickers, gives an honest account of transitioning from UG to PG study during unprecedented challenging circumstances.

Beth headshot

I am honoured to share my experience of learning from home; undertaking my masters in Sport & Exercise Nutrition, all from the comfort of my bedroom… which in reflection seems a great and unique feat of achievement.

I completed the latter end of my undergraduate third year in nutrition from home during lockdown. All my teaching sessions had already been delivered, so my task to complete at home was finishing my remaining assignments and dissertation. I knew I wanted to continue my study and complete a masters, but there was great uncertainty surrounding what my masters would look like given the circumstances.

Now halfway through term two of my masters, I’m proud to report that despite the ongoing lockdown, I am progressing well. Undoubtedly, there have been times of wavered self-belief and imposter syndrome – but I challenge you to find a masters student that hasn’t ridden this wave. There’s a reciprocal relationship of this vulnerability and reinforcement through persistence. It grounds and humbles me. Ultimately, the reassurance comes from reminding myself I have earned myself a place on this course for a reason; and I can’t expect to understand everything right away.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy and the destination is not our only goal. Despite the fact I am not physically learning alongside my course mates, I feel as though we’ve all made a conscious effort to get to know one another over virtual platforms, and I feel I now have such a strong network of fellow professionals and more importantly; friends that share a passion and common goal. Actively engaging with the online learning dynamic has really helped to facilitate my progression and build real connections. Debate gets you critically thinking, questioning and feeling. Every year I progress to a new level of study, there’s a greater degree of independence and a growing notion that I really need to know my stuff. Come September it will be down to me to build a career from what I have learnt. So, the bottom line is that old chestnut: you get out what you put in.

Learning from home presents its own challenges. There’s a fine balance to be struck between managing my studies, work, other commitments and leisure. My biggest lesson so far is that time for leisure is just as important as work in any sense of the word. It’s very easy to be demotivated when you’re sleeping, learning, working, and exercising in the same space. So, my first pearl of wisdom would be to prioritise exercise and take yourself on a walk between lectures or any part of your day – it recalibrates and re-energises the brain. Just as you pencil in assignment work from 3-5pm, add in some ‘you’ time from 5-7pm – You’ll burnout if you don’t make yourself a priority.

I had a lot of deadlines before Christmas, including the applied practice programme application. I almost didn’t go for it, doubting my capability in balancing commitments. I am so glad I pushed through, having since been successful and delivering my first session to the Castleford Tigers Academy Team. It has really instilled my confidence in applying my learning into communication, and a ‘badge on the sash’ of my journey to becoming a sports nutritionist. The ongoing support from staff and mentors has been fantastic.

My final bit of advice would be to use an organiser. Treat this masters as your full time job. Plan your days, ensure you mix up your focus; and don’t forget crucial ‘you time’. When you’re in the thick of it, and feeling bogged down by work, realign with why you started in the first place. This year is the key to the rest of your life and career, don’t lose sight… trust the process.

P.s: Don’t be afraid to turn your camera on, it’s nice to see a smiley face!

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