As the end of the academic year approaches many third years find themselves panicking about the prospect of adult life. The questions ‘what on earth will I do next year?’ and ‘will my parents cry if I move back home?’ are circling through the heads of many finalists.

At Christmas I found myself in the exact same situation. I knew I wanted to continue in education and eventually complete a PhD, but where? And on what topic? Amidst panic revising for my January exams I found myself searching for postgraduate courses online. Of course Exeter University would have been a great place to continue my education, but none of the masters courses were quite right for me and what I wanted to do. Then I came across an advert for a PhD with the Centre for Integrated Research in Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA), and it seemed PERFECT. The official title was ‘Whole foods as an aid to enhance recovery, muscular strength and functional performance in older adults’. Effectively, the project was looking to find foods that could help to prevent a decline in strength and muscle mass often associated with ageing. I immediately put together an application.

After checking my emails noon and night I finally received a response mid running lactate profiling for the boat club. I was both shocked and very excited to discover that I had been asked to attend for an interview. By luck in the week leading up to interview I received a phone call regarding the PhD studentship during a meeting with Dr Bert Bond. Immediately, Bert offered to help me prepare for the upcoming interview by allowing me to practise the potential questions they may ask and ensuring I knew exactly why I was applying and why I was the best candidate. Even despite his busy schedule he found a huge chunk of time to help me, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Interview day rolled around all too soon. Walking into a fancy hotel in York I suddenly found myself very nervous. Sitting next to candidates studying at the likes of Cambridge and Oxford I began second guessing myself. What was I doing here? These candidates are so much more intelligent than I am! When I was called through to my interview I began repeating the mantra in my head ‘remember what Bert Bond said’. Bert had told me that although there may be people that have more relevant or prestigious degrees, what the interviewers were really looking for was a safe pair of hands to conduct research. He had told me that all the experience I had gained running my own study for my dissertation and conducting research within Exeter University’s labs during an internship over summer were worth more than my degree. He had given me the confidence that I was the best person for the job, and that’s how I remained calm and confident during interview.

When I received an email saying I was being offered the studentship I was stood in line for my daily Waitrose coffee (a rite of passage for most students studying on St. Lukes campus). I was so shocked I had to ask a friend to read the email and check that I wasn’t reading it incorrectly! I’d actually got my dream PhD studentship!

So in September I am heading up to Newcastle University to begin my studentship and I couldn’t be more excited. It is without doubt that I would not have achieved this without the support from the Sport and Health Science department at Exeter. From Dr Lee Wylie patiently teaching me lab techniques and trusting me with a real study, to Dr Jo Bowtell helping me through the stresses of dissertation data collection and third year, to Dr Bert Bond helping me prepare for my interview, I am yet to find a lecturer at Exeter that is unwilling to help. The whole department is fantastic, and I have had the best three years there studying my undergraduate degree.