Elvira D’silva

Country: India
Subject of study: Medical Sciences
Year of graduation: 2022
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

What did you enjoy most about your degree programme?

Studying Medical Sciences at the University of Exeter has been an invaluable experience for me. Learning from renowned lecturers and professors coupled with the immense support from our personal academic tutors has been incredible and really made it easy to make the most out of my academic experience here. BSc Medical Sciences is structured over the course of three or four years (with a placement year abroad) The course also allows students to choose a specialism pathway at the end of first year as follows: Health Research, Human Genomics, Neuroscience or Pharmacology and Therapeutics. This greatly benefited me because I had a keen interest in pharmacology and how this translates into medicine therefore, the option to choose a specialism pathway allowed me to choose modules geared more towards my interest such as Introduction to Pharmacology, Pharmacology with Medical Chemistry, Rational Drug Design etc Medical sciences uses facilitated structured small group learning (SSGL) for three main 30 credit modules such as IHP, DDT and TMS. These allowed myself and my peers to take responsibility for our own learning during the class sessions. However, these were facilitated with immense support from lecturers and professors at all times. The independent sessions really helped me get to know students from my course where I made some of my life-long friends. It allowed us to take responsibility for our own learning but at the same time helped me find different methods of studying by talking to my peers and understanding their way of thinking. The resources from the sessions were always uploaded on a shared file either on a website or teams making it easily accessible at all times for all students. Overall, highly recommend using the SSGL sessions as a means of learning to think independently and understanding the dynamics of working together as a team. Furthermore, laboratory sessions in first year really helped me understand the content for some of my modules by having to apply my knowledge in a controlled setting. The laboratory sessions allowed students to work together as a team in either a group or pair. The lecturers and professors were always on standby to help us through any questions we may have or any confusion with the instructions provided. Also, each pair/group of students were assigned post-graduate students who also aided us during the lab sessions. Overall, I was extremely happy with the level of support provided. All the modules I studied during my time at Exeter were structured in a way which helped me understand the content well and at times when I was really confused or did not get the information provided, the support systems were always in place and lecturers were always available to answer questions and to assist me until I understood it better. Additionally, I would like to let prospective students know how supportive the Medical Sciences staff was during the pandemic. May this be with mental health concerns or worries about the course itself. The helpdesk at St Luke’s and Peter Chalk were always extremely fast with responses and helped support me when I felt like I wasn’t able to do my best or needed to take time off studies or extend any potential deadlines due to health concerns or mitigating circumstances. This also stands true for the Student’s Welfare team who never judged my past/situation but only chose to listen and help me as much as possible and for that I am genuinely grateful. Lastly, I would kindly ask any prospective students to not shy away from asking for help when needed. May this be for mental health concerns or just confusion with the content you are being taught. The helpdesk and lecturers are all here to support you but if you do not ask for help, you may lose out on truly reaching your potential which would be a shame. Learn as much you can but at the same time seek out all the support that is available to you to make the most of your degree and time at Exeter.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

Social Secretary for Legion Dance Exeter (2020-21) and Freestyle Dance Coach for Legion Dance Exeter (2021-22).

What was the highlight of your time at Exeter?

 There is so much to do here even if there are more trees in Exeter than people! It is difficult to express my time here in a few words. I made some of my closest, life-long friends here. I learnt how to be independent and balance my work and social life. I got to experience life with people from all around the world. I was introduced to new cultures, different perspectives and overall, it was a positive experience. My personal favourite highlight would have to be staying up all night with absolute strangers, exchanging the most intimate details about your life and gradually seeing them turn into some of your closest friends. Also, surviving a degree during a pandemic, obviously! I joined many societies during my first year. This really helped me get out of my comfort zone and actually go out and meet people and make friends. This was the most daunting thing I had to do by far, but it was worth it. You do not have to be an expert to be a part of a society. If you want to join volleyball, you do not need to have earned medals at the National level but instead just be open to learning and meeting new people and you’re set. The whole point of a society is for you to have something to look forward to outside of studying with like-minded people. To anyone who struggles with social anxiety or thinks they will not find anyone or make any friends, trust me on this, it will happen, but you have to take the first step and definitely try to get out of your comfort zone. This is obviously easier said than done, but baby steps is where it’s at. The amount of times I nearly cancelled a night out or a society event and then forced myself to go out and have it turn out to be amazing blows my mind.

What will you miss the most about University?

The late night walks, Legion dance Exeter, the nights out, UNIT1 (not TP please no), movie nights with my friends, online exams, resell scams, wholesome nights in, turning up to a lecture on time and then falling asleep at the back because you are still hungover from the night before, group study sessions, cooking disasters, overheard, forgetting to put the bins out (I will not miss the bin juice), face masks, the forum piano, Exmouth and honestly so much more that will turn this profile into an autobiography so I will stop now. University taught me so much about myself. It really helped shape me to be the person I am today. It helped me understand people better but at the same time showed me what I truly need in my life to be happy. I can only hope to be a better version of myself in the coming years and my life at Exeter will be a big part of that. It may sound cliché and even cringe at times, but it is actually true. For eg: living with my friends was a unique experience. At times it can be unbearable depending on who you end up living with. However, it taught me about personal boundaries and allowed me to say no to intolerant behaviour which is something I struggled with in the past. Not everyone you start university with is who you will finish university with and that is okay. It is all part of learning who you want to keep in your life and that sometimes it is okay to let go of people and things that do not serve you. So, what will I miss the most during my time at Exeter? Everything to be honest. The good and the bad.

What advice would you give to current and future students? (If you are an international student what would you like to tell future students from back home who might be thinking about applying to study in Exeter?)

 To current and future students: I would say make the most out of your time at university. People say university is a time where you truly get to know yourself including your likes and your dislikes, your strengths and your weaknesses and I can attest to that as I am sure many others would. I recommend future students to reach out to the departments for your course before you start and ask for detailed information in order to understand your course better. Visit open days which will help you see the university and get a feel for it yourself. Although I am aware this may not be possible for many international students, there are always options for virtual open days. I would recommend getting in touch with our alumni team, who can give you an account of their own personal experiences here at Exeter which can also help you make informed choices regarding accommodation, funding, extra help, welfare support etc. The University also hires student ambassadors who from my experience are also extremely helpful and can guide you to the right support depending on what you need. Students can also make use of the Student Guild which is a fantastic place full of experts who are there to support you with any concerns you may have about the university, your course, funding, accommodation etc. Also, if you are someone who might refrain from taking part in the drinking culture due to religious reasons or medical conditions or a personal choice, please do not let the idea of drinking put you off from coming to University or going out to societies to make friends. There are many alternatives and things to do which do not require drinking. You will find many societies who are very welcoming and accommodating to students who choose not to drink or partake in these activities. You will find like-minded people with similar interests and hopefully this will let you know that you do not have to force yourself to take part in these activities just to fit in because there is more to life than just drinking! For anyone struggling with mental health concerns or if you find yourself going through mitigating circumstances during your time at university, I highly recommend reaching out to the Welfare team who have been incredible with the support they provide. University can be an isolating time for many students especially in the beginning. The pandemic really was a difficult time, speaking from personal experience and it is not always easy to ask for help. However, I did ask for help and it was the best decision I made. Coming to a new place, learning to do things on your own, managing your finances and not always having a safe place to go back to is something many students go through on a regular basis during their time at University. However, these should not stop you from reaching your true potential and having the best time. For students who struggle with financing and making ends meet, there are several options available for Home and International students. These include hardship funds which can help cover some living costs, help to pay for computer/IT expenses either partially or fully depending on a case-by-case basis. These is also help provided for estranged students, students going through bereavement or students who are struggling as single parents. All of these can be accessed depending on your circumstances by reaching out to the student help desk who can direct you to the right people. Financing for university is a massive undertaking and I cannot speak for everyone in this case. However, I do recommend looking into extra help provided especially through bursaries and scholarships which may ease some financial burden. I myself am a recipient of a scholarship program without which I would not have been able to go to University let alone support myself. This opportunity allowed me to finish my course of interest with ease with enormous support from my scholarship sponsor Mr Jim Price. Also, if possible, part time work is always an option if absolutely necessary. I worked all three years of my degree and although balancing work and studying and social life was extremely difficult at times, it can be done. However, it will take a toll on your mental health and may cause burn out so please, do be aware and ensure you have adequate support systems in place to help you when needed. University experiences will not be the same for everyone, but support at Exeter will be always provided to help yours be a positive one!

What are your plans now that you have graduated?

I am currently working as a locum dispenser for pharmacies. My plans for the future include further studies where I will hopefully go on to study Medicine and fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. However, coming to University gave me insight into different careers and helped me know there is always an alternative so definitely keep an open mind and be open to new experiences. You never know what you will find or who you will meet.


Similar Alumni

Taylor Lawrence

WPP. Since graduating I have been lucky enough to gain a place on the WPP Health Fellowship.

Sabine Hoadley

University of Exeter. I have recently (thankfully!) just got a job at CP+R as a clinical exercise specialist, which I will begin in October.