Masters Compare Scholarship 2022-23, meet the winner

We’re pleased to announce the winner for our Masters Compare Scholarship 2022/23. Thalia is studying a part-time Master of Public Health (MPH) at the University of Exeter while working in a care setting. Thalia shared her experiences of choosing to study a postgraduate degree and what winning the scholarship will mean to her. She started her masters degree at the University in September 2022.

Can you tell us about your academic journey so far and why you wanted to carry on and do a masters?

I started my academic journey by enrolling on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme at Bridgwater and Taunton College.

Through its diversity the program enabled me to broaden my knowledge in various fields, raise my international awareness and open-mindedness. With community engagement at its core, I was lucky enough to fulfil the volunteering aspect of the curriculum by helping build a clinic centre in a remote village in Aguersioual, Morocco.

It was in this moment that I began to reflect on the healthcare inequalities that run rampant across the globe.

After college, I began working for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust as a nursing assistant, and later trained as a phlebotomist. My roles required me to care for my patients autonomously and professionally. However, I also learned first-hand about the pressures and struggles of the UK National Health Service.

Following this, I wanted to add a new dimension to my learning, particularly because of my passion for sustainability and interest in climate change.

In 2019, I embarked on my BSc in Marine Biology at the University of Exeter. I had the privilege of studying in Penryn, where environmental and sustainability issues underpin the campus's ethos. I studied several fascinating modules, such as Exploitation of the Sea, Evolutionary Biology of Health and Disease, and Frontiers of Global Health. However, one that particularly elicited my interest was Oceans and Human Health, where I learned about the Blue Health initiative, which researched how coasts and rivers positively affect wellbeing, with the goal of making 'blue space' more accessible.

Again, inspired with the hope of improving both human and ecological health, I decided to join the University of Exeter’s medical school to pursue my Master’s in Public Health.

What made you choose to study at the University of Exeter? Did you look at a number of universities?

When I was looking for a university, I ideally wanted to stay in the Southwest. I am fortunate that many Russell Group universities surround me, so I had a chance to visit them all.

I decided on University of Exeter because I felt my values aligned perfectly with their ethos. Moreover, I thought the campuses were stunning, and the prospect of studying in Cornwall for my undergrad really drew me in. Where better to study marine biology than on Britain's most vibrant coast?

I considered changing universities for my Master's degree in Public Health, for the benefit of living somewhere new. However, having been taught by world-class lecturers for health-related modules in my BSc, I felt inspired to continue learning alongside them and moved to the Streatham Campus.

Why did you choose a Masters in Public Health- was it recommended to you?

Yes - I had a friend who studied medicine and intercalated on the Master of Public Health at the University of Exeter. She spoke highly about the course and the lecturing team on the programme and felt it would suit my career aspirations.

After getting in touch with the course lead and doing some research, I felt sure it was the masters for me.

You are starting your course and working as well so how will you manage your time studying and working?

Having come from an area with the lowest participation in higher education, and the first generation of my family to attend university, I am proud of what I have achieved so far. But pursuing a full-time master's degree was never an option for me financially, so working alongside a part-time degree was my only choice.

However, I'm not sad because I love my job! Working for Ask Jules Ltd is a perfect solution whilst studying a masters. This role enables graduates to assist disabled students achieve their ambitions through independent living, helping them complete their degree through academic and personal support. Each client is different, but my position allows me to work a week on/week off, which gives me plenty of time to complete my own studies.

In addition, the Master of Public Health (MPH) at the University of Exeter is delivered 'hyflex', which means that I can attend classes in person or online, allowing me to be flexible with my learning.

What advice (if any) would you give to students who are thinking about starting a health related Masters in 2023?

Being a health care assistant, antibody phlebotomist and vaccinator during the COVID-19 pandemic was an unnerving and unprecedented challenge. But, I had to stay resilient and not give up what I loved most, which is helping people.

The NHS is perpetually under-funded, constantly under scrutiny, and undervalued in many ways. But having this service is still an incredible privilege. My advice to students who are thinking to pursue a health-related masters is to not let the state of the NHS discourage you.

Really think about whether this career is for you - talk to people, get advice, get work experience! If you have a passion to help others, reduce inequalities, and work towards a healthier future for all, then go for it! Your commitment to helping others will never be undervalued by those whose lives you touch.

What will winning this scholarship mean for you?

Winning the £5,000 Master's Compare Scholarship has lifted a financial burden I have been carrying since graduating, and it is difficult to articulate how grateful I am.

Since receiving the money, I have found confidence in applying for opportunities that would not have been accessible to me before.

I am currently waiting to hear back from the World Health Organisation on an internship in Geneva. The opportunity would allow me to work alongside visionary leaders to gain strategic insight into the global health multilateral system, where I can contribute meaningfully to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, I would like to use some of the scholarship to travel abroad and carry out community-oriented volunteering to practice the skills I learn from my Master’s of Public Health.

Whatever the outcome may be and wherever life takes me, the money given to me by Masters Compare has undoubtedly changed my life.