A year ago, I was in my second year of psychology here at Cardiff University and preparing to search for a placement for the following academic year. Today, after setting up my own placement with Cardiff Volunteering, I am developing my very own project – a befriending scheme for elderly residents and individuals with some form autism spectrum disorder in Cardiff – called the Student Befriending Scheme.
The prospect of finding a placement is daunting for a student of any discipline. Cast into the world of work, you’re forced to talk yourself up, dress smart and pretend you know what you’re doing for long enough to secure a job. For us psychology students, placement applications mainly take place in two rounds. After round two, placement opportunities are fairly limited, and finding a placement that you wanted to fill and with an organisation that wanted you to fill it can be a struggle. With the exception that students are allowed (and often encouraged) to approach organisations to set up their own placements.
Following an unsuccessful first round, and a consequent struggle to find a placement that I was both passionate about and interested in, I was facing an empty year. Round two quickly came and went and I was running out of opportunities to make my placement year worthwhile. Luckily however, the friendly and accommodating nature of the Cardiff Volunteering team would eventually mean that I would soon be in a placement that I both enjoyed, and was passionate about.
During my second year, I developed a small idea for a befriending scheme, wherein students could visit elderly residents during times of when most other potential Befrienders would be in work. The idea was originally borne from what I learnt in my time studying psychology, particularly from learning about the cognitive and physical deterioration that can arise as a result of prolonged loneliness. Dementia, depression, and even increased mortality rates have all been linked with loneliness in the elderly, and loneliness is an issue that I would argue most of us have some degree of experience with, be it close to home or further afield.
So I decided to see if anyone else thought it might be a good idea. A quick google search of Cardiff Volunteering gave me someone to get in touch with and before long, I was meeting with Michelle and her team. I pitched the idea to them, with a (thankfully) positive response, and the Student Befriending Scheme was officially born! It was at this point that I thought I should mention to Michelle and the team that I was currently searching for a placement and, should they have a free computer and a desk, I’d love to join the team and get the project up and running. Luckily, they had the space and were happy to do everything they could to converse with the School of Psychology to officially set up Cardiff Volunteering’s first ever placement scheme.
A few months later, with all my inductions and introductions completed, I am now an official member of staff in Cardiff Volunteering and enjoying every second of it. Setting up my own project has been extremely rewarding from a personal achievement perspective, and has given me the confidence to make what I want to happen, happen! I would wholly recommend the placement scheme to any Cardiff University, and I would also add that if there isn’t a currently a placement that you think you would enjoy, then go out and make one. Organisations would often jump at the chance to have a bright young student in their midst, and with the reputation of Cardiff University on your side, you will discover that getting out there and making space for yourself is easier than you might think.