The ‘thrill’ of really knuckling down, and thumbs up for flexibility

LSHTM logoI get a fair few questions from people about studying at the University of London.  And it’s always a bit of a mouthful to explain that I’m studying at ‘the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine through the University of London’s distancing learning programme’…

But, it does give me ample opportunity to remind myself why I chose this path to begin with.  More on that in a moment.

Free range humans road sign, New Zealand

While having a good break back in New Zealand, stumbled upon this great road sign.

To start with, I have to echo several of the other UoL Student bloggers.  To say that my own study plans got mildly side tracked in the latter part of 2013 would be an understatement.  My work with St. Joseph’s Hospice really took over but a new year, a fresh new perspective, and a month back home in New Zealand have helped me figure out how to find the balance.

It also means it’s really time to knuckle down!

But surprisingly, I think it gets a whole lot easier when I can really knuckle down, or get ‘get in the groove’ as another blogger alluded to.

Having almost got through an initial read of all the course materials, a little bit like reading the recipe right through and prepping your ingredients before getting cooking, I can now get stuck in to mixing, stretching and testing (in a proverbial cooking sense!).  Perhaps a stretch to make a cooking metaphor out of exam prep, but hey, whatever gets you through!

What also helps get me through is how relevant the study is to my everyday life.  This morning I was reading about the perceptions of parents towards the MMR vaccination as part of my social research module in preparation for a Collaborate session with my classmates today.  Yesterday I was reading about lay care versus formal care in the health sector, getting me thinking about where things like natural fertility regulation (that I teach) fit into the ‘scheme’ of health provision.  As I catch up on dental and other medical check ups back home, and file my insurance claims, I think through the implications of the insurance that I have and how that fits into the wider picture of health insurance and health financing.

Goats road sign, New Zealand

On the way to catch up with my midwife high school mate, we passed this rather critical road sign…! (And then didn’t see a single goat for 70km).

A classmate shares online about the research surrounding the lack of additional benefits from additional routine ultrasounds for pregnant women beyond 20 weeks…and upon sharing that with my aunt, a midwife, I find that she’s been battling for this very issue in her own practice on the other side of the world.  Or catching up with an old high school friend while home, also a midwife, to find she’s involved in a multi-centre control trial on the use of magnesium sulphate to protect premature babies between 30 to 34 weeks.  Previously, I would have paid little attention – or felt unable to really digest this kind of stuff with much more than a cursory effort – but now I’ve got enough of a handle to start to engage, and it’s pretty thrilling!

I’m hoping that ‘thrill’ will be enough to carry me through to exams in June, as we move (we being husband and pooch) to Bangkok in March for two years.  Ah, and that reminds me of perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the University of London programmes – the utter flexibility.  I’m not sure what Bangkok will hold for me as my husband settles into his new role.  The potential for other work to crop up, especially work in public health, still stands.  With a programme like UoL, however, I can take things one step at a time and decide along the way the combination of study and work that is right for me.  I think that counts for a whole lot and helps me make the most of wherever we are.

Lucy is studying the MSc Public Health by distance learning in Pakistan. She is originally from New Zealand.

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