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Study abroad : Once you arrive

Q&A with Lebokai Ndichu, Mental Health Nursing student

Lebokai Ndichu talked to us about how she chose Mental Health Nursing at Kings College London, the conversations she had with family and friends and everything she has learned in her three years studying there.

Lebokai sitting on a window sill outside a large university building. She is wearing black tights, black skirt, a brown top and a black and white checked jacket. She is smiling warmly.


The Hotcourses Abroad content team had the pleasure to meet and talk to Lebokai Ndichu, a student in her third year of a Mental Health Nursing undergraduate course at Kings College London. She shared with us her motivation to study at university, her choice of course, and how she developed, both professionally and personally, during her studies. We’re sure you’ll see some of yourself reflected in what she shared. 


Why did you decide to go to university? 

With university, I know that there’s a path, and I can follow it. I knew there were other options, but that was too uncertain for me. That was the main reason for wanting to go to university. I also went because of my family. There was no other option.  

I don’t think they would’ve been happy for me to take a gap year and I genuinely wanted to go to university. I wanted to experience that, and my friends were going as well. I know it isn’t the best reason to go to university, but it’s wanting to be in a similar environment to the people around you. 


Do you feel that school or college prepared you for university life?  

I don’t think so. They say school is there to prepare you for the workforce right, but school is nothing like working. I don’t need permission to go to the toilet! 

I understand that when you’re younger, you need that strict limited organization of school. But as you get older in Years 9-11 it’s nothing similar to what uni is like. School kind of feels like a third parent, but at university, it’s just you. 


When you got to university did you find that clear path you needed? 

When I applied to university, I wasn’t really thinking about what the course entailed, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was quite surprised at how intense it was. I had an image of university. I wanted to join all these societies, and I had ideas to do a language class to learn Korean.  

I had all these ideas of the things I was going to do, and in the end, I did none! So, there were parts that weren’t as straightforward as I wanted them to be, but once I got settled in, the course itself started to make a bit more sense. 


Was there any point in your university journey that you wish you’d chosen a less intense course? 

That was mainly in the first year because grades don’t count too much, I only really experienced freshers for the first month, and then it was straight on to placement. I wish it was less intense so I could enjoy the typical university life more. But, it needs to be intense because when you graduate you need to know what you’re doing as a nurse. For example, when you need to give an injection or give medication. 

I must remember I’m investing money and time into this. I want to graduate, so even though I do get to miss out on a few things like having a lesson in a language or having that organized structure of school, I like that I’m doing something that I want to do.  

It’s different forcing yourself to go to a lesson that you’re not interested in and you’re just doing because you need to have a certain number of subjects, compared to choosing something you want to do and knowing that it will benefit you. You will use it. 


What made you choose to do a Mental Health Nursing degree at Kings College London? 

Well, I always knew that I kind of wanted to go into healthcare/mental health so before uni applications started I started looking at the league tables of the best university for this or that, and Kings came up quite a lot. I did like the prestige of Kings, whether it lived up to that I don’t know.  

I also went there for an open day, and I liked how it looked. A few of my friends were planning on going there, so at least there are some people that I would know.  


Was there a mismatch between what you expected from Kings and what you experienced? 

It’s a good university, but nursing and the way it’s  structured - it’s so different from other universities. What I  mean by that is nursing, in general, is split fifty per cent of  the time you’re on placement in hospitals and fifty per cent of the time you’re on campus in lectures. 

I find that when I go to my placements, and there are other students from other universities, they’re more well-equipped and prepared. I think their unis focus more on the clinical side of nursing while Kings focuses more on the research side, which is good because I know the evidence-based structure behind it.  

I understand where the theory comes from, but I, and other students, felt a little bit behind on the more hands-on clinical stuff. For example, someone in their first year was able to do what I was just learning to do in second year. 


Was there any point where you felt nursing and university was not what you expected?  

I knew nursing was intense before I applied but I did not expect to be thrown in in the first months of uni. Our first placement was in November, and we started officially at the end of September, so it was like a month and a bit.  

I think in my first placement, I cried because I thought, “What is this, I don’t know what I’m doing!” I didn’t feel prepared at all. Luckily, we had some uni days too (we spent three days in placement and two days on campus). Everyone was saying they felt so overwhelmed. We didn’t understand how grand this moment was going to be. It was so unexpected in a way. 


What is mental health nursing like?  

I really didn’t expect how *draining it can be. I have never seen people so mentally unwell to the point where they cannot function as a human, and it’s so sad to see because they’re just normal people who, for whatever reason, have ended up this way.  

*draining – mentally and physically exhausting/tiring. 

I didn’t expect it to *take such a toll on me. I knew it would to some extent, but I was quite **naïve to mental health. I mean I knew it existed, we’ve all had our struggles, but I was 18 or 19. I didn’t really see how bad it could get and seeing people so unwell was a huge shock. 

*take a toll on me – to have a serious and bad effect on me 

**naïve - didn’t have the experience or the knowledge 


How do you feel the university dealt with inclusion and diversity as a whole? 

I thought it was very inclusive, and they do have several international students, and because of the way my course is, there are so many different types of people. There’s diversity in age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, so I do feel like my course is diverse, but I think that’s because it’s nursing.  

Whatever uni you go to, you will find a diverse group of people in nursing. But in terms of inclusion, there were quite a few *microaggressions and **ableism was a huge shock too. There wasn’t much support for that. I didn’t know where to go. They’re very big on support for mental health but not much for other things. 

* microaggressions – an act or a remark that discriminates against one or more members of a minority group, either deliberately or by mistake 

** ableism – unfair treatment of disabled people by giving jobs or other advantages to able-bodied people 


Have you changed very much during the three years of your course? 

I do feel that I have progressed from the beginning of my course to now. I do feel that there’s a huge difference. It's mainly how I am in a work environment. I was never in a formal professional setting before going to uni, and I did find in the beginning I was quite passive.  

I wasn’t as proactive, and I was more comfortable with being at the back, I didn’t want to say too much, and I didn’t feel confident. But now I feel because nursing is so intense, I have no choice but to be confident. I don’t know if I would’ve done this a few years ago. 

It’s kind of taught me that’s it’s ok to ask for what you want and to voice that, especially in more clinical settings. There can be a bit of a hierarchy going on between different professions in such settings. Being able to know what you can contribute and not be shy to say that, even as a student, because I don’t have any qualifications.  

Being confident with what you know and being ok with permitting what you don’t know, that’s what this whole experience has taught me the most. 


Thanks to Lebokai, you have hopefully got some useful insights into studying abroad, university, and nursing. Remember, you can get more advice, insights, and information on university study abroad on our site.  


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