Students are trailblazers for nursing at UON

Date 25.02.2022

Two women with a deeply held drive to learn more about mental health became unwitting trailblazers for the University’s Nursing programme.

Rashmi Khanal – who hails from Kathmandu, Nepal – and Glister Matambu – from Mutare, Zimbabwe – have recently finished their degrees in Mental Health Nursing, They are part of the first group of students to be allowed to study nursing through University of Northampton International College (UNIC).

UNIC helps overseas born students to ‘acclimatise’ and prepare for studying a UK University degree and to brush up their English. After completing this they join the full, three-year degree at the University of Northampton.

This route into the profession has not previously been possible, making Glister and Rashmi UON’s first international students to complete the Mental Health Nursing degree this way.

Students of Adult, Children and Young People’s and Mental Health Nursing as well as Occupational Therapy and Podiatry can also now complete a programme with UNIC.

Now qualified, Rashmi had her graduation ceremony earlier this month. She talks about her journey: “UNIC was so nice, I really enjoyed my six months with them. When you come to another country you know nothing about the place, the people, or the rules about things. But I was ‘on the same page’ with the students and the staff were helpful because they understood what I wanted to achieve.

“I had taken a bit of a gamble on coming to university because my parents were funding me; I didn’t want to let them down, but I was also going to miss seeing them. But the experience at UON really helped. In my group I made lots friend with people of many different backgrounds, they all had different life stories and experiences. And the staff were always there when you needed them, they make me feel relaxed; it’s thanks to them, the librarians and many more that I have my degree.”

Glister – pictured – learned alongside Rashmi and will have her graduation ceremony in May. She continues: “I come from a small town one that is beautiful and surrounded with mountains and full of nature. So, leaving for several years to become a nurse was always going to be a wrench.

Mental Health Nursing student Glister Matambu

“Back home the culture around mental health is very different to the UK. There is little awareness of it and if you talk about it, people think it’s related to others walking naked in the street. But I gained experience of some mental health through voluntary placements that made me realise I definitely wanted to work in this area. It was a personal interest and a drive to ‘bring something back’.

“But where should I go? I looked at UK universities and saw what the University of Northampton (UON) offered, what the lecturers were saying and especially the association with UNIC. I was instantly interested.

“The Foundation programme was so helpful. The team held my hand and walked with me, as I struggled on certain things especially my IT skills. I would not have been able to progress to the University if it were not for this ‘breather zone’. It really prepared me for the work that followed!”

The duo’s aim is to go back home after they have settled into their new careers and to give back to their communities and help generate a culture change around mental health.

Glister explains: “I am really proud of myself to have got this far – I nearly cried when I read my final results and saw I had passed! I want to get used to being a qualified nurse and support people here in the UK, but one day I would love to return home and open my own mental health organisation.

“I come from a part of the world where many people can’t afford the support that’s available. I see my future role there as helping them have conversations about mental health that people have here in the UK.”

Rashmi, who also received a ‘highly commended’ citation at the Nursing team’s annual student awards, added: “My family are very happy I’ve finished the course and I feel very happy to be seen as a ‘trailblazer’, it’s great that this is acknowledged. I was home sick during the first year and felt a little low but had a chat with the lecturers and they helped me a lot. They made me feel to keep working on the degree and hit my target of what I want to achieve.

“I definitely see myself staying in Northampton for at least another two years as I have a job at a Berrywood Hospital working with the elderly. In Nepal mental health is not really identified. It ‘exists’ but people have little knowledge of it and are not open about it. My Grandfather was recently diagnosed with dementia, so I want to gain experience working with older people who have dementia so I can help support my Mum – even remotely – so we can help him together.”

Craig McIlwain, College Director/Principal at UNIC, added: “Many congratulations to all of our first ever cohort of international students. It’s heartening to hear that Glister and Rashmi both gained so much from the experience, something I can already tell will pay dividends for people in our local community and beyond.

“We are already working with our next cohort of international nursing students, so Glister and Rashmi and their first-generation peers are shining examples to the next generation about what they can achieve.”