'The internships, voluntary work, and workshops I completed really did help me get where I am today...'
Bachelor of Health Sciences in Health Education
Studying towards a Master of Health Sciences with an endorsement in Health and Community
Facilitator, Mates & Dates Programme (ACC), Empowerment Trust
‘My area of study and work is a challenging yet progressive field, with new ideas, initiatives, and research constantly being developed – which makes it so interesting!’
Sophie’s studies in Health Sciences have focused on exploring health issues in communities, and ways of abating these through health education, particularly for younger people.
‘When I heard about the Health Sciences degree at UC, which was fairly new at the time, this really motivated me to be able to pursue a field I was passionate about in a non-clinical setting!
‘Studying Health Sciences is a unique field – you not only learn about how to enhance community health and well-being, but in doing that, it somehow provides you with the tools, tips, and tricks to enhance your own health and well-being. Being a smaller cohort too, your classes become a community. I would really encourage people to make connections and learn from one another, it really makes your time studying more enjoyable, and you feel more connected and supported.’
Her undergraduate degree studies emphasised practical experience in implementing health education programmes, which she was able to carry out on campus at UC.
With a Student Success team internship, Sophie helped with the development of a Well-being Framework for supporting UC students. She also completed an internship with the Student Care team completing evaluation reports and facilitation for student well-being pilot workshops.
One of her other highlights was an internship with the UCSA, implementing the national Thursdays in Black (TIB) campaign on preventing sexual violence at UC.
‘This was a pivotal moment for me as I was able to use all the skills and knowledge I had developed in my Bachelor’s degree and actually plan and implement such an important campaign. I am so grateful for UCSA’s support, especially for the President James and Vice President Mikaela for believing in me and giving me the opportunity. It’s really exciting to see that other students have extended this from the original pilot and there’s now a TIB Club at UC!’
All of Sophie’s efforts were recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Award, as well as a UC Master’s Scholarship to go towards her Master of Health Sciences.
Completing postgraduate study in Health and Community has built on her previous internship experiences. Sophie’s thesis explores school-based sexuality education, and how the issue of intimate partner violence within relationships is approached and taught.
The thesis is supported by her work as a Facilitator for ACC’s Mates & Dates Programme in secondary schools.
‘I co-facilitate the 5-week healthy relationships programme for young people in years 9 to 13 in secondary schools around Christchurch, which is aimed to prevent sexual and dating violence for young people. We facilitate discussions around healthy relationships, consent, gender identity and sexuality, and dating and sexual violence.
‘I love that with my study I am reading academic theories and articles about a topic that I am so passionate about, but then in my job, I get to actually practically do what I read and write about – it’s like having the best of both worlds! Plus, no two days are the same with young people – it is so interesting to hear their thoughts, ideas, and experiences, and learn from them as much as they learn from us as facilitators. My study has 100 percent equipped me with the knowledge and skills to feel prepared and confident to educate young people about relationships and violence.’
From her own study journey, Sophie hugely advises other students to be involved in opportunities outside of their Health Sciences degree to gain much-needed experience in real communities.
‘I can truly say that the internships, voluntary work, and additional workshops that I completed really did help me get where I am today. The people that I connected with are people that I now connect with in my facilitation job!’ she says. ‘Look for ways to get experience in the areas you are studying. Explore different specialisations under the wider Health Sciences field, and truly find what it is that you really love or are passionate about!’
As for her career ambitions, Sophie plans to eventually move into research and policy on sexuality education and violence prevention, so she can ‘inform practice from a higher level’.