Student Placement in a Pandemic

What’s been happening?

From January through to April, Nutrition Scotland had the pleasure of working remotely with three undergraduate Public Health Nutrition students, studying in the School of Science and Computing at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in Ireland.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have not been able to offer students their usual placement experience within businesses and organisations. What was supposed to be an exciting part of the course became quite stressful for some students as they anticipated a placement via remote engagement.

Last year we sent our proposal for a virtual placement project to GMIT, we were delighted to receive a huge amount of interest from the students. After shortlisting and carrying out interviews, we offered placement positions to Aisling, Conor, and Rebecca. We felt they could bring different strengths to Nutrition Scotland – so they all joined our team!

Work carried out by the students

During the placement, the students were tasked with a variety of projects relevant to public health nutrition. Initially they researched and planned activities for a school-based intervention, gaining experience critically analysing research papers and focusing on key behaviour change functions. They focused on effective and engaging activities which support the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, these will be developed further in the coming months. Later they created social media posts, wrote blogs, carried out recipe development and analysis and created health promotion resources.

We were blown away by the enthusiasm the students had to learn and engage with us. We don’t underestimate the difficulties and uncertainties they needed to overcome to work alongside us including; being based in a different country, getting to grips with the Scottish primary school curriculum and bringing new, engaging ideas in a short space of time.

Whilst it was unfortunate that we couldn’t work together face-to-face, this experience has shown us that great things can be achieved via Zoom!

Here is what the students had to say about their experiences…

“When I was lucky enough to get the chance to have an interview with Suzanne from Nutrition Scotland, and then to be offered a placement, I was very excited for what lay ahead. We had a great chat about our course, future careers in nutrition and had a few laughs along the way too. “

“I enjoyed this type of work as it gave me an insight into real-world nutrition that would benefit other people. I felt these new skills and knowledge learned were very useful, as I personally feel that no matter what you learn from lectures in college, real-world experience as part of a social enterprise such as Nutrition Scotland can be more beneficial towards developing skills for future work. I was delighted to have this experience and cannot thank Suzanne and Megan enough for all their help throughout the 12 weeks, and hopefully I can take the knowledge learned from this placement into future work or careers.”

Conor Hegarty

“Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A huge benefit of this placement was that it provided me with the opportunity to work closely with two of my classmates, who really helped to keep me motivated during the 12 weeks. Another positive aspect of online placement, for me, included having the opportunity to work off of my own schedule. This allowed me to be more creative and I found that being able to control my working schedule fuelled my productivity levels.”

“This placement with Nutrition Scotland really helped to further develop and enhance my teamwork and communication skills. My classmates and I were required to brainstorm and develop new ideas and concepts for various tasks regularly. This work required us to work both as a team and independently. As with various other jobs and positions, teamwork and communication skills are vital in the field of nutrition. In the future, I will use these skills to benefit both myself and clients I work with. I also plan on applying these skills in the completion of my final year of Public Health Nutrition.”

Rebecca Mullen

“This placement has been thoroughly enjoyable right from the beginning. It has helped me develop new research and editing skills through creating factsheets, recipes, quizzes, and blogs. I am now more aware of the different software and sites than can be used for creating engaging social media posts. This knowledge will be hugely beneficial for not only college assignments but also with any future role I may have in the public health and nutrition sector. Aside from the technical skills this placement has greatly enhanced my communication and teamwork skills, particularly learning to work with the others in a setting that was different than what we were used to (together but apart). The very nature of my course is about utilising communication skills to promote good health to the public and good teamwork skills are an attractive assist to bring to any workplace.”

“Overall, I feel I got a wonderful placement experience despite it being from the comfort of my own home. Suzanne was very kind and accommodating. She made us feel as though we could approach her about anything. At our meetings Suzanne and Megan always made us feel relaxed and provided positive feedback on the work we contributed. The tasks assigned were fun, creative, and always different. This was undoubtedly a beneficial and worthwhile experience. I want to thank Suzanne for taking me on and giving me the chance to acquire and develop many valuable skills.”

Aisling Forde

Thank you!

We would like to thank Aisling, Conor and Rebecca for all their hard work over the twelve weeks, and to thank Dr Evelyn Hannon at GMIT for organising the placements and supporting the work of Nutrition Scotland,. They have been a joy to work with, showing huge support for the work we do and we wish them every success in their future studies and careers. We’re sure they’ll smash it!


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