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Graduate is feeling optimized after longer than expected professional journey

Date 25.07.2019

After a long journey to graduation and with a few bumps in the road, one student finally dons her mortar board and cape thanks in part to an encouraging ear from a University lecturer.

Harriet Afrifa – from London – has just completed the final year of her undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy, a profession she has wanted to join for many years. But it was a profession that nearly passed her by.

Harriett explains: “I had been studying at another university and was enjoying the degree, but the final year was difficult. There were long-standing issues between a lecturer and the manager of the unit where I had my clinical placement that affected my studies.

“It wasn’t easy but I carried on as best I could but failed the module and then subsequently couldn’t graduate. That and the lead up to it really blew me off course and knocked the wind out of my sails.

“I returned home to London for some extended downtime and later found work at a local hospital as a therapy technician instructor – which is like an occupational therapy support role – and I absolutely loved it. It was the start of my road back to becoming a fully qualified OT.”

Conversations with her then manager were the first nudge to get back to university: “He kept asking me why I hadn’t applied to go back to university already as OT was obviously the career for me. I knew about the course at Northampton, my boyfriend lives here and my sister isn’t far away in Milton Keynes, so I knew he was right. I’d delayed long enough and I made the call.

“During my interview with the admissions tutor Debbie Hewson, what first struck me was the genuine warmth and understanding I received. I had interviews at other universities, but after my previous experience, I wanted to pick the one that would be right for me. I like to think I’m an out-going, confident person, but I admit I didn’t want to deal with my former university.

“But the team at Northampton liaised with them and other agencies for me; they really fought my corner. This was so encouraging and was the final push for me to finish my degree here. I felt that this level of support would follow me throughout the two years I would study at Northampton and it has…and then some!”

Even though her undergraduate degree is now in the bag, Harriett isn’t severing ties with the University just yet as she is working with the University’s Changemaker Hub to develop a social enterprise project.

She explains: “One module really got me thinking as we looked at different communities – I concentrated on looked after children or children who are in care –  and see what we can do to enhance their wellbeing and health.

“I want to put occupational therapy into the new-home setting when these people leave care and venture out into the world on their own, to help them adjust and deal successfully with independent living and contribute meaningfully to that world.

“I have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit in me so it’s great the University has Changemaker here at Waterside.”

Now that the false start has turned into a first-place finish, Harriett is settling into a new future: “I feel energized and optimized! Currently, I’m working at Northampton General Hospital as a Senior Therapy Technician, working mostly with older patients assessing them before they are discharged to make sure they can live as independently as possible once they return home. I have a sense of hope that I didn’t have before, it feels like I’ve been given wings to fly.

“Finishing my degree has confirmed that I can be an occupational therapist and I am more than capable of doing it well and this has led into other areas of my life. Although I’ll be in Northampton for a while yet, I’ve been given wings to fly anywhere I want to!”

Find out more about Occupational Therapy at University of Northampton, whether through the full-time route or full-time Extended/FTE route (students study for three years, although academic years are slightly longer, but the FTE route includes less weekly attendance, meaning students with work or family commitments can more easily balance their personal lives with their academic studies).

Find out more about the University’s Advanced (MSc) in Occupational Therapy.