Last week I headed to London for a much more relaxed meeting with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust than my last encounter! I was invited to a seminar with other 2018 Fellows from the Science, Technology and Innovation, Nursing and Allied Health Professions, and Health and Wellbeing categories. Before this seminar, I was shocked that I was a 2018 Fellow; I’d heard what a huge opportunity it was, and I knew I’d done really well to make it through such a competitive application process. After the seminar, I was really, really overwhelmed. There were other Fellows there sharing their experiences and advice, and the entire process became a lot more real. This is such a huge opportunity and I am so excited!
So, excitement aside, the day was brilliant for a number of reasons; here’s what happened.
Introductions, welcomes and advice from the WCMT Team
Julia Weston – I met Julia at my interview and she was so lovely. She opened the seminar and she was just as lovely in a much more relaxed environment. She explained how the Fellowship program started, that Churchill knew of and approved of the program, and that the Fellowships were a lifetime deal. Her welcome really made me feel part of something, and the words that stuck with me were ‘aim high, don’t be shy‘ and ‘travel to make a difference‘.
Sara Venerus – I have a feeling Sara is going to become my go to person at WCMT over the coming months whilst I’m planning the trip; she explained all about the process of planning such a significant period of travel, and made it really clear that WCMT don’t just want us to pack our schedules with research meetings – we need to experience the culture and people around us too! I’m genuinely really excited to plan my trip now, spreadsheets and colour-coding are going to be my best friend..
Tristan Lawrence – Tristan focussed on what comes after the travelling part of the Fellowship; the report. The majority of the reports that I’ve read were purely text and photographs, but Tristan made it really clear that WCMT are very flexible with the formats of the reports. I’m now furiously thinking of different formats that my report could take; I definitely want to make it a creative thing because my project is focussing on creativity – so many ideas!
Stephanie Talbut – Ok, so Stephanie‘s talk included references to Beyonce, that Professor Robert E Kelly interview, and research methods – in short, I’m 100% sold and I think she’s brilliant. Research methods are my thing, and I loved the way she emphasised that methods are just a one-stage thing, they’re something we need to think about before, during and after the research we do as part of the Fellowship.
Jonathan Lorie – Reportedly the Beyonce of what he does (comms), Jonathan encouraged us to begin the project with a ‘comms mindset’. I loved the way he discussed dissemination plans, the importance of the report, and the huge impact that our work could have after the travelling part of the Fellowship is over – I felt hugely inspired and motivated to make the most of this opportunity after hearing what he had to say.
Sara Canullo – I met Sara at my interview too, she kept me calm ensured that I didn’t trip up the stairs (yes, that’s a thing I often do when I’m nervous); which was very welcome. She rounded off the WCMT welcomes brilliantly, driving home the point that we are joining a passionate and vibrant group of Fellows that are ready to network and welcome us to the WCMT family. Again, I have a feeling that she’s going to be someone I get to know pretty well over the coming months.
Breakout session with the Science, Technology and Innovation category
Main practical advice from past Fellows:
- Buy packing cubes
- Learn how to budget (this one is v important and can involve many, many different apps/spreadsheets etc)
- Get a Monzo card
- Check baggage allowances for internal flights
- Local SIM cards are good
Highlights from past Fellows:
- Arfah Farooq’s vlogs – Arfah was a 2017 Fellow, and she was so passionate about the work she’s done on diversity in STEM, particularly focussing on Muslim women and Tech. She’s Queen of tech herself – recommending loads of different websites and apps to help with trip planning, documenting and sharing. Arfah is brilliant – so enthusiastic, so engaged, and really open to helping this new cohort of Fellows. I hope I can take at least a pinch of her passion and use her project dissemination to inspire mine.
- Rose Mary Johnston also discussed her 2017 Fellowship – and it was mind blowing. Her project focussed on body farms, something I didn’t even know existed. Hearing her speak was extraordinary; her topic was so interesting, and the way she discussed the moral and ethical complexities of the subject showed that she really knew her stuff.
- After the breakout session had finished we had a chance to network and speak to other WCMT Fellows past and present. I got talking to Missing Wolf, a 2017 Fellow. On the surface his project didn’t look at all like mine – he travelled to the USA to investigate soundscape ecology, the study of sound emanating from the natural landscape as an indicator of biodiversity loss – but after a few minutes we started to make some really brilliant comparisons, and I’m hopefully going to link up with some of his contacts when I’m in Toronto for my Fellowship.
Honestly, the afternoon went by so quickly, and I was left pinching myself yet again. Each and every one of the past Fellows that I spoke to were incredibly helpful, passionate and enthusiastic – and they were all so happy and encouraging, reinforcing that this Fellowship could, and hopefully will, bring big opportunities providing that we invest our efforts and make the most of it. My fellow 2018 Fellows were largely feeling just like I was; nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with the possibilities that lay ahead of us. I have a feeling this is going to be one hell of a journey, and I cannot wait to get started with planning my trip!