Nicola’s ambition for nursing is to “give back to others”. In this blog, Nicola reflects on how her experiences as a student nurse at Edinburgh Napier University allowed her to bring her dream to life. Nicola highlights the significance of support from the University and her mobility placement to Ghana as key components to realising her dream.
It was a non-traditional journey into higher education for me. My life had been full of challenges but somehow I pushed through and studied at college, gaining an HNC, which led me to study at Edinburgh Napier University.
The first year of uni was a real struggle academically until, with support from the team at Edinburgh Napier, I discovered I had some learning difficulties. With the extra support I began to thrive in my studies.
I then decided I wanted to make the most of opportunities offered at Napier and decided to apply for a mobility grant and travel to Africa. I had never been away anywhere on my own, yet I found myself at the point where my two children were old enough to look after themselves and my studies were making me curious about how learning disabilities are treated outside the UK.
I was awarded a mobility grant, and organised bake sales and fundraisers to enable me to travel to Ghana. I spent three weeks there, splitting time between a hospital and a residential school for children with learning disabilities.
I witnessed a different approach to practice, but what stood out the most was the difference in cultural attitudes toward people with learning disabilities. I hadn’t been prepared for how stigmatised the children were because of their disabilities, and I was able to learn about the work being done to try to change this cultural misunderstanding from the leaders of the school.
I was then invited to speak in front of 500 people, including the Archbishop and the Chief of Takoradi, an opportunity which then led to me meeting and speaking with the President of Ghana. I spoke to all of them about my growing knowledge and research into learning disabilities through my course in Edinburgh. I also advocated for the leaders of Ghana to prioritise public education to help shift the cultural stigmatisation of people with learning disabilities.
I have continued raising money for the students, sending care packages and advocating for change on their behalf. I am fundraising to return in September, once graduated, hoping to educate staff in Positive Behaviour Support.
Edinburgh Napier has changed my life forever by giving me opportunities that I never would have imagined. For example, I am now looking forward to travelling to Romania for two weeks with fellow students and staff for and intense training course on challenging behaviour.