Click on the play button to hear Bradley's interview:
In this episode I catch up with an Access to HE student who has completed his Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics with Academy Online Learning. We discuss his time whilst studying on the course, how studying online worked for students like himself, advice for future students and the UCAS process that enabled him to get to University.
Hello Bradley, thank you so much for taking part in this special podcast series. You've studied the Access to HE Diploma with AOLL. How did you hear about the course?
I essentially just typed into Google access to higher education courses in nutrition and dietetics. I knew that if there was a possibility to get an access course that was tailored towards nutrition and dietetics, then my motivation for wanting to do it, complete it, do well at it would be greater. I didn't know if it was available, so I just typed it in anyway. I knew that the core A level qualifications are like biology, chemistry and another subject in that sort of area. I know that those are what I needed for actually the understanding of the field, but I thought I was just wondering if there was something more specific and Academy offered that to my surprise. And I was quite excited about it. Looking at the prices of the competitors as well, just Academy was the cheapest and could do monthly instalments. So working part time, I'm obviously not on a great wage, but I need the time to study. So it worked really well and it just seemed to be the best choice.
What was your role before choosing to study with Academy Online Learning?
Well, before studying, I was travelling quite a lot and every time I was coming back to having to work again. And it was the kind of balance that obviously when you're travelling, you're spending a lot more money than what you are when you're at home working and saving and being frugal and not spending lots of money on activities and hotels or whatever. So I found myself coming back to home to save up again and it was just quite a boring period. And I was just thinking, I need to get out of this cycle because jobs, when you're not qualified in much, they don't pay that great, you can get trades, but it's a lot of time and usually the work, unfortunately it's hard for it to be exactly what you want. So essentially I was working, I was travelling and then I came back home and I found a job using logic. So I think I've got quite a pragmatic, logical mind, and I'm not like mechanical or anything, but I have a problem solving mind. So I went into a job, literally, that was just down the road, really nice family owned business, fixing washing machines and dishwashers and cookers and all those sorts of appliances.
So the great thing really about that company was that they were flexible. So originally I started on four days a week, and then as the course progressed and I felt like I really wanted to hammer down on it and maybe get it done a bit earlier as well. So I went down to three days and they were totally fine about it. So it's a job that was feeding my curiosity for the time being, but at the same time not too demanding, so that I couldn't study at the same time, but getting to see people every day, talking to them about everything as well as their machine, but also the machines, understanding how they work, what parts need to be replaced, the sounds, smells and visual aspects of it, the problem solving, the fixing, the fitting. It's quite interesting to associate it to the course that I'm looking at doing dietetics is that essentially it's quite similar in a lot of ways. At least one way that stands out to me is the problem solving. There's a symptom and the symptoms got a cause and you've got to find a cause, and there are a multitude of different parts, components and organs in the body.
So when you're trying to figure out what the causes of this problem, there are many, many areas and aspects that you've got to root through and lots of false headings that you need to be aware of. So all in all, I think it's been quite a complimentary job to have whilst being on this journey towards going to university. So I think it really has kept my mind going in that direction of problem solving. And again, like I said, that the flexibility that they offered was quite rare. I don't think many companies would be able to do that, so I'm grateful for that.
Were you specifically looking to study an online course?
Being from Guernsey, there's limited amounts of higher education that you can do here. Really, it stops at sixth form, so there isn't really an opportunity to do anything here. So I was looking for an online course because I wasn't going to move just to do a preliminary course for university. I thought if there's going to be a course, I want to be able to do it online, just so that I know at least that I want to do it so that there's no pressure. If I've moved to a different country just to do an access course, there's quite a lot of pressure, so being able to do it from home was preferable, including the fact that we live here, we have our family here. So being able to at least start off this journey while still living here and working here was extremely useful. Yeah, very useful.
Did the access course take up all of your time or were you working alongside your studies?
The access course, as I said before, I was working part-time, so I was working for the majority of the course. I was working Monday to Wednesday, so on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday to study.
It was a really good they complemented each other. So, like I say, the company I work for was really kind and flexible for me, especially when it was like coming close to a deadline on one of the assignments. And maybe I was ill or something during the two week period or the four week period that I needed to get the assignment in by. And they were quite happy for me to change around my days so that I could fit it in. So really, I mean, there was no problems at all. Time wise, I had all the time that I needed, but I had the benefit of working part time so I could go at it a little slower, which I think was good for me because obviously, coming from not doing any school or any academic, any exams, any assignments, any sort of deadlines pressure, writing, writing styles, research, all that kind of thing hasn't done in a long time, nearly nine years, ten years. So the time that was allowed to me for part time was necessary, really, I think, for me to really grasp all the concepts and learn what I needed to do and sort of get up to scratch with the sort of quality that is expected at university.
Yes. And by planning to go to university, can you tell us a bit about the process for students that might be listening and want to know how to apply for a course in nutrition and dietetics?
So as well as learning the skills and the knowledge required for pursuing your your chosen course at University. Academy also gave you the skills to work through your application. They gave you all the information sources to follow, booklets, PDFs, just a very, very, very large amount of information and guidance for applying at University. Even one of the assignments that I had to do very early on was explaining why I had chosen the universities, making a table, collating all the information, figuring out what it is about that university that was beating all the others. So really no one else helped me. It was just Academy's information and it was more than enough. I really wrapped my head around the concept of applying, and it was so easy in comparison to maybe finding external resources, even talking to maybe local teachers about what they would do. To be honest, there was no one more helpful than Academy, and I had access to talk to my tutors about it. The fact that my tutor was a master in dietetics anyway, was great. I could speak to him about things that I was wondering, things that were useful to know, poignant aspects of a course that I would want. So following the guidance given by Academy, I just breezed through the process, really.
As well as that, when you get to UCAS, UCAS is also very straightforward. You make your page, it's like your hub, and then there's multiple parts that you have to tick off, like you've got to make your written statement, which actually my written statement was reviewed by Academy as well before being published. It was not only reviewed, but it was reviewed and given criticism as well. It was obviously gentle criticism because there's no sort of right or wrong answer or right or wrong way to describe yourself, but grammar mistakes or coherence issues throughout, or at least other aspects you might not have thought about. It's very useful to have a second opinion on what you've written from a professional, especially someone who will be doing these constantly for students. So everything was really a breeze, to be honest.
That is great to hear. What was the most important thing you gained from studying on the Access diploma?
I think one of the most important things that I learned through studying the diploma was the research. So researching is a way to find the truth or the facts of something, or at least the most up to date information, which can always be challenged or revised. And it does. When you do research, you figure out that something that was said five, six years ago, depending on what field it was written, can be quite out of date. So you've got to really know where to go, what the red flags are. For an experiment, you need double blind placebo trials, you need a large group, you need diversity, and you need no industry funding or biases. I think for me that was the most interesting point of view. And to be honest, you can kind of internalise that too and apply it to everyday aspects of your life. For example, why would someone do something different to you? Not only will they maybe credit a source like a magazine or an article or blog what a friend has said, but understanding that you have to respect people, you have to respect what they believe and what they've read.
Because a lot of the time people aren't trying to find the true answers of things, they're just taking on board for ease what someone else is saying or what seems logical. And that's perfectly acceptable. And the way to handle it is to not attack people's beliefs or opinions, but to provide the information from a credible source, from a legitimate source. And so I just feel like that's really crept into my everyday mentality, really. I don't judge people for what they've read or for what they say because a lot of the time I just know that they haven't read the scientific or medical literature or they're at least taking they've already listened to someone who's deciphered it in their own way. I think it's useful, it's increased my empathy for people and that everyone's coming from a different place. And also one of the main things it's given me really is kind of a real genuine interest. I mean, I had an interest before, but the interest is way more now. There's so many aspects as I learned more that I realised I didn't know, of course, but the interest is kind of well, what can I do in the fairest way?
How can I achieve information and knowledge in the fairest, most non biassed way? And it's really kind of opened my mind to all the possibilities that are available within dietetics. Not only the sort of very regimented list of things, as in like you're just a general dietitian or your community dietitian, one-to-one, freelance media, work, blogging, sports team or specialist dieticians. So they got the research aspect of it. But not only that, you've got like just the humble approach of just speaking to different cultures, people, what they do, what they've done forever and why they do it. Just the interest is real. It's really fostered that interest. It made me very curious, but like I say, in the best way possible, in a really empathetic way. I just want to know how other people are getting on with their nutrition and why they eat a certain way or why they believe what they believe in and just looking at it from a human way, from an emotional way, as well as a factual, scientific, medical way.
What advice would you give to potential students that are considering studying and access to he diploma?
I'd say the most important piece of advice would be just to make sure that you've got enough time. If you're working full time, when do you expect to go to university? You can obviously do this without the intention of going to university at the end of it. But what time frame are you working in? Just be realistic about it. I had quite a long time and I was working part time. I had quite a lot of time to wait until university was going to start and I was working part time, so I just knew that it was going to work for me. A friend of mine is doing an access course with a different learning institution online and he's working full time. But for him, he was able to really just do it so well, despite the fact that he had had half the time I did. So what kind of person are you? Do you need extra time to sort of get into the flow of it? Or are you the kind of person who hasn't been in education for a long time? To be honest, myself and my friend who did an access course at the same time my friend and I hadn't been in education for the same amount of time yet I was working part time, he was working full time.
I do think you just got to know yourself, know what style of learning that you need, and make sure that you're giving yourself that opportunity, making sure that you're giving yourself enough time, also knowing the time frames that you're working to as well. Because it would suck a bit if you had done the course. And then maybe you've got quite a while to wait. Maybe you just finished the course in October time, and then you've got like a whole year to wait until university starts in the following September. So think about when you're going to start it and how much time you want to give yourself to finish it.
And finally, where do you hope to be with your career in five years time?
That's a very good question. I would say in five years time, my kind of trajectory is more along the lines of once qualified. I think, for me, general dietitian in the NHS is definitely where I'd like to go. I want to know the foundation of the knowledge and the application of the knowledge. I want to be in that atmosphere and speak to the people who are doing it. But, I mean, obviously that's when I finish the course in approximately three years time. So, realistically, in five years time, I will probably still be doing general dietetic work at the NHS, at an NHS hospital. My longer term idea, really, of course, it can change depends on what I end up enjoying to study or what I find interesting, work wise. But I touched on it briefly before. But I think for me, obviously, I do love travelling. So I feel like the main thing that I do like about travelling is the culture difference. And I would love to study different cultures and their diets and the way that their diets impact their culture, their wellbeing, the things that they do, the way that they feel, the moods, the ideas, concepts, the way that they function as a society.
Like tribes or peoples that live very far away. Like, for example, Siberian cultures in the Tundra. They're living in the tundra. Like, what do they eat? Mostly raw meat and berries and leaves, leafy greens that they find along the way. It's a very unforgiving place. But what do they do nutritionally wise? Are they getting all they need? If not, then how is their body reacting to it? Is their physiology different? Is there a genetic component to their survival? And so all of these things, I feel like, are extremely interesting to me and I think that's probably a pursuit that I will want to achieve in the near future.
I want to thank you for taking the time to record this podcast episode with me, and good luck for your future.