Caterpillars put in a lot of hard work to become butterflies. I like to think I’ll be a butterfly by this time next year; graduated and ready to fly out into the world of audiology and adulthood, though I’ve got quite a bit to cover before then. Covid-19 has not been kind at all but has proven a crucial time to reflect on how we as a society should strive for positive change, how to maintain a healthy routine when things go south, and how precious our front line workers are (thank you).

Lockdown for me was also exam season but this took place at home; it was rough. Following this, the grass was set to be greener. A new beginning at my placement where I’d get to know the department and settle in before final year. Unable to carry this out due to Covid-19, I faced the difficult position of not knowing how my final year of studies would look like and whether I will graduate with sufficient experience. During these past months of uncertainty, Aston University’s Audiology staff have carefully constructed a step-by-step plan to guide students through final year academic and placement content, and virtual learning. Interestingly, these changes have resulted in a revamped final year structure, which as unpaid placement students, we are extremely grateful for.

When caterpillars endure drastic change, they come out the other end better than ever and although most attention is given to the end result, I must say I have a growing appreciation for the cocoon. The cocoon is what enables this change and provides a safe space for growth, like that of Aston Audiology.

I have always enjoyed connecting with prospective students and handing out advice; in fact, I enjoy it so much that I am a student ambassador and Aston University’s undergraduate Peer Mentor of the Year. So why is it that I find it so difficult to ask for advice when the roles are reversed? When faced with the opportunity to converse with current third years, supervisors, assessors and every other hearing care professional under the sun, I feel intense waves of intimidation. I tell myself that they know ‘what they are doing’, busy or that I shouldn’t bother them. So, when I do eventually step up and spark conversations, I’m overwhelmed every time and *literally* almost cry (though others think I’m joking!)

But there’s an upside. Aston University’s annual Careers Day, Patient and Public Involvement days, Tinnitus Awareness Week stalls, supporting Applicant Visit Days have all been great opportunities for me to build on my networking skills and confidence. They have also highlighted to me that students are in the same boat as everyone else, we too are constantly learning about the ever-changing approach to patient-centred care and upcoming technologies. This has been reinforced during lockdown by webinars held by Cochlear for example, on gaining a greater understanding of implanted hearing care devices. For my change in attitude, I must thank the Audiology staff at Aston University. Thank you for helping me as I build my cocoon.

Mariam Jahangir

Aston University