Here at Woody’s Lodge, we’re so in awe of our fantastic team of volunteers, without them, we wouldn’t be able to support as many veterans, emergency service leavers and their families as we do! One of our volunteers is Cerian Elliot, Cerian has been working with us on a 3rd year university placement. She is studying Psychology at Aston University and will be returning to university in September to complete the final year of her degree.
Read below to find out all about Cerian’s experience with us now and her top tips for choosing a university placement!
Meet Cerian – one of our volunteers here at Woody’s Lodge
I am studying Psychology at Aston University and I am undertaking my 3rdyear placement at Woody’s Lodge. A placement is quite unique to Aston, although more university courses offer an option to do a placement, Aston are forerunners in offering placements in a variety of subjects. I always knew that I wanted to get some work experience whilst completing my degree, which I why I chose to study at Aston!
I live in Rhoose with my parents and I wanted a placement near home. I had been looking at different charities and in the not-for-profit sector. I didn’t want to go into a big city like London and sit behind a desk or work in a big corporation, I wanted to work somewhere small where I could be more hands on. My dad is a veteran he volunteers for Woody’s Lodge, so he suggested that I take a look around and meet with the team.
I took the train from Birmingham (where I was living for university) and met David Trotman, the Chair of the Management Board, who showed me around Woody’s! I already knew of Amelia Trust Farm as I used to go there with my school when I was a child and with my parents, so I was surprised to find out that Woody’s Lodge was based there now.
I got on so well with David, he was so friendly and seemed so keen from our initial chat, but I had to wait for the university to approve Woody’s job spec for the role.
At Woody’s, I do a bit of everything and I’ve got some amazing hands-on experience working with veterans and emergency service leavers, supporting them with DWP claims as well as helping to fill out forms for pensions and benefits. I already knew a bit about claims and benefits as my mum has MS but there’s also lots I’ve had to learn on the job. But Judy is always there if I need support.
I’ve loved learning on the job, every day is something different every day. I work with lots of different people and try to support them with their different needs, especially those who have mental or physical health needs. This is nothing like what I would’ve been doing if I had done my placement in an HR department, this is so rewarding.
It can be challenging when you don’t know who will walk through the door and how best to support them, especially if they have their own challenges or if the person is vulnerable. But I think that my degree in Psychology has really helped me, it has given me such a foundation and awareness of mental health and how this can affect everything in someone’s life.
I feel so grateful that I’ve gotten to do this placement as I know that it will benefit my final year hugely, I’ve gotten so much hands-on experience that you wouldn’t normally get at university. I’ve worked with people that have real-life mental health conditions and the confidence to work with them towards a goal whilst working in a small team has given me so much more experience, insight and knowledge than I ever could’ve gotten from a textbook.
Plus, I now have even greater desire to work in the not-for-profit sector, it’s such a lovely environment! People are so welcoming, and I feel like I’m really doing something meaningful and beneficial to other people.
Cerian’s Tips for Looking for Placements:
– Widen the parameters of where you are looking. For example, in Psychology, students will often look at the NHS or businesses. Instead, take a look in your local community and see what is around you! By choosing a unique placement, it will put you in a much better position, especially in such a competitive field such as Psychology. Don’t disregard the not-for-profit, it is a huge sector that often gets overlooked!
– It can be difficult to spend a year without paid employment: if you’re in the position to be able to move back home with your family, maybe speak to them so that you don’t have the rental costs. Depending on the hours you work, for example Monday-Thursday 9-3, it does leave you the weekend for a part-time job if needed.
– Time management! I still had two big pieces of coursework to complete during the placement, make sure you know how to juggle your time!
– Speak to someone who has already done a placement in your field to find out their experience
– Check out the support that your university offers, there’s lots available, you’ll just have to go in and ask!
– Placements are becoming more and more common as a way to stand out amongst competitive subjects, when considering your university options, take a look if they support placements and if they have a team in place to support placements.
– A placement will really separate you from anyone else, so you need to grab it today! It is so competitive after university, so to leave university with all the skills from a placement plus a degree, you’ll really stand apart!
Next, I definitely want to complete a master’s degree in Psychology. Psychology is a subject that you either do and then you end up in a job in something really different or you really get the bug for it and you have to keep studying! If I hadn’t chosen psychology, then I would’ve loved to study History. But when it came down to it, I decided that history is looking at the past whilst psychology is looking at people and the future.
Volunteer with Woody’s
We’re so grateful to Cerian for choosing to do her university placement with us, she has been fantastic in her role of supporting veterans and we’ve loved having her part of our team.
We are always on the lookout for more volunteers to add to our team. Our volunteers provide support for veterans in a variety of ways from providing one-on-one guidance with form filling to ensure they’re getting the right financial or health support to sitting down with a brew and a biscuit to have a chat with a veteran that might have become a bit isolated. We often have activity days to help families re-engage with each other and we’re always on the lookout for volunteers for these days, helping to make tea, run activities and generally, being a friendly face.
Obviously at the moment whilst we’re in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is on pause here at Woody’s Lodge, but if you think you have some time to volunteer with us at either our North or South Wales sites once everything is up and running again, then we would love to hear from you!
Contact the team on 01446 781792 (South Wales) or 01492 533954 (North Wales). You can also drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org