March 1, 2017, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
This week MPH in International Health student Nilushka Perera talks about how her PPN postgraduate placement secured her a full-time job in the charity sector.
When you are an international postgraduate student, there are different kinds of strains and challenges that you have to face. So you try hard to find your comfort zone in a place that is completely new to you by exploring opportunities that resonate with your life goals. While completing my MPH in International Health at the University of Nottingham, the opportunity arose for me to apply for a 2 month internship in a Children’s charity in London. Having been born and bred in Sri Lanka, working in London, was a dream for me. A dream that painted a picture of bustling metropolitan city with busy people and a sea of endless opportunities. Intrigued by the work that was being pioneered within the charity , I decided to apply to Best Beginnings, through the University of Nottingham, and I got selected after facing a daunting interview and selection process. As excited as I was, I didn’t realise the potential that was awaiting me to make a difference.
Having a background in Public Health and Psychology (which is not as common as you would think), I struggled to see how I could translate my knowledge into practice, especially in the voluntary sector. Best Beginnings, engaged with me in a systematic manner, and I was immersed into the work environment with ease by my line managers. The induction that was planned by Best Beginnings played a key role in helping me understand the heart and soul of the charity; the heart to bridge inequalities in children. Although my tasks were directly linked to my experience, it all helped me understand the interacting elements that help a charity achieve its overall goals. They were elements that had not crossed my mind like writing blogs, understanding websites and social media protocols, while also being exposed to maternal mental health work.
I always had an interest in parenting and child health, although my overall interest gravitated towards life-style based non-communicable diseases. During my internship, I began to draw parallels to the public health impact of digital health interventions, the role of behaviour in maternity care and the work that was undertaken by the charity. I was able to understand the strategy and aims of the charity well enough to create evaluation protocols, employ systematic research methodology in collecting data from community engagement projects and build relationships that helped paint a holistic picture of maternity care within the NHS and the UK as a whole. I had the opportunity to represent the charity in multiple national level conferences addressing health gaps, attend prestigious events and meet influential people. But most of all, I got the opportunity to talk to parents from various communities about their personal struggles. All of this showed me the potential for innovation that exists within the healthcare sector and that the need for such care that pierces national boundaries.
My experience at Best Beginnings stimulated me to rethink my career goals. I gained more knowledge and confidence to work with parents and children while understanding how to influence national policy and strategy. My personal confidence, problem solving skills and solution focused thinking had an environment to be challenged and nurtured by the numerous opportunities and obstacles that were thrown my way.
Although I joined at a time where the charity was undergoing changes, the warmth of Best Beginning’s culture, helped me feel less like an outsider. It helped me feel like I belong here.
The opportunity to progress from being an academic intern to be offered a full time interim position as their Evaluation and Impact Lead was a milestone for me. Through this role, I have been able to build partnerships that helps me progress as a health professional, push my boundaries in research and be part of a hardworking, diverse and passionate team with the heart to serve.
The life lessons I have learned in this short period are too many to write in one place. But the biggest lesson I will carry with me is that possibility and hope that if you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, then you have the ability to create that perfect job role for yourself. You just need to find a place that resonates with your drive, ideas and work ethic. Best Beginnings was that place for me. That place that gave me the hope, that there exist endless possibilities to help make the world a better place.