I have decided to go slightly off-topic today. It is somewhat ironic that I post this on the day the UK goes into virtual lockdown, but last week (Monday, 16th March) marked five years since I began working for the University of Bristol.
It has been an amazing ride, and I have changed so much as a person, learning an enormous array of skills and getting to know – and be friends with – a great number of wonderful people.
For some context, before I started working for the university it felt like my life was going nowhere. I had no confidence; no self-esteem; very little ability to communicate with others. I guess that I was quite clever, but all I really had was my writing.
It was a rainy day in late February 2015 when I arrived at the Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRIC) at the University of Bristol for an interview, having applied for an apprenticeship in Business Administration. This was my seventh such interview and I had grown more confident with each one, and it turned out to be a case of lucky number seven.
I instinctively knew then that it was the right place for me. I performed well in the interview, and luckily was offered the role a few days later. When I started, working on a reception desk was a bit frightening as I was quite anxious to speak to anyone. It was even worse on the phone, but gradually I eased myself into it with the help of very supportive colleagues. Before long, I was enjoying it immensely and was looking forward to work each day.
CRICBristol was an extremely interesting place to work, with all the clinical research studies that were taking place around me. The projects focused on a wide range of things, such as neuroscience, blood pressure, dementia, sleep, nutrition, and pain. The centre includes an MRI scanner and a sleep study suite, and I was heavily involved in its smooth running.
My role was quite varied; as well as reception duties I performed tasks such as collecting statistical data, managing events, overseeing the website and social media, and acting as the main contact for the facility booking system. In addition to that, I had my apprenticeship course to complete.
The one sad thing was that I knew I would have to leave at the end of my fixed term contract, but as I searched for a new job I never considered leaving the university, as I absolutely loved the environment. It is an organisation where near enough everyone treats others with courtesy and it would have been painful to go elsewhere.
I was eventually successful for a role in the School of Arts, which I began at the start of October 2017. At the end of my time at CRICBristol I had completed two apprenticeships, gained an indescribable amount of valuable experience, and made some very close friends. It kind of opened my eyes to the world, and I became a better person along the way.
That has continued in the School of Arts, where I have remained ever since. It was quite daunting there to begin with, because I had to get used to working in an office with a larger group of people, the various processes that applied at school level, and understanding the needs of staff and students in five different departments – Anthropology and Archaeology, Philosophy, Theatre, Film and Television, and Music.
I am the first point of contact for students, my role again extends widely. Web and social media is one of the areas that I am probably best at, and I have had to work hard on improving that since I joined Arts – a long process! My favourite part of the job is working on Open Days and similar events. Having joined the university feeling hesitant to speak to anyone, I have grown to love the interaction that this brings.
Not every day is a good day, but one thing I do know is that I am exceptionally grateful to work for the University of Bristol. In the last five years it has given me the sense of belonging that I did not have before. I may not stay there forever, but at the moment it hard to imagine working full-time somewhere else. I have made a lot of great memories, and I hope there will be many more ahead.