Sorry for the silence and sporadic posting on here, it’s been a very busy couple of months! I came fresh out of A-levels, completed my personal training course over the summer (meaning that I’m now a qualified PT) and almost 2 months ago I started my 4-year degree in Nutrition at the University of Surrey. I know a lot of you are interested in Nutrition and so I thought I’d share a bit of how I’m finding the course so far, to give you an idea of what a Nutrition degree involves.
First of all, I think everyone (including myself) was pretty surprised when I chose a science-based degree. My strengths are geared more towards the creative subjects; creative writing and essay writing are things that I’m good at and enjoy doing, and so subjects such as History and English were always my forte. It was subjects such as Maths and Physics that I would struggle with more at school. I chose an odd set of A levels (History, Latin, Biology and Psychology), yet everyone assumed I was doing English A-level and (a small) part of me wished I was. When we had to drop a subject at A2 I said goodbye to Latin and I even toyed with the idea of pursuing a degree in Psychology, especially as that’s where I had my best A level result. I find it really limiting and sad that we confine ourselves to certain careers through our A level choices, when we might not know which path we want to choose.
A Nutrition degree requires Biology A level and one other science. Some universities will ask specifically for Chemistry as well as Biology, but most accept a range of subjects, and some universities (such as Surrey) include subjects such as Psychology and P.E. Although I don’t regret not doing Chemistry A level (I wouldn’t have enjoyed it), I will be the first to say that not having an A level in Chemistry feels like a significant disadvantage on this course. It is assumed that you have a basic understanding of Chemistry and I would be lying if I said I could count on my GCSE knowledge. It does mean that I find elements of the Biochemistry module quite challenging, and less enjoyable than some of the others. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible; I can still understand the concepts involved, but it simply means that I have to make an extra effort to read around the topics and do further research to brush up on my understanding of Chemistry.
This semester there are 4 modules on my course: Food Science & Nutrition, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Now, I did my research and I knew that this year would not be my favourite. I knew that the modules would be far more maths- and chemistry-based than I would have liked. And I have always hated lab practicals and microscopy. And yet, here I am, on the first year of a course full of maths, chemistry and lab practicals. Here’s the sad truth; I knew that I was going to have to grin and bear it. Of course it’s all quite interesting, but if, like me, you don’t love chemistry, maths or labs, well…then you’re not going to love your first year.
In addition, a lot of the information you learn in the first year does not seem directly relevant to nutrition. For example, as interesting as it may be, I do not need to learn about chromosome packaging, or mitosis, or the infectious cycle of a virus, or how to grow a bacterial culture, to give a nutritional consultation. Looking at my modules, it looks more like I’m doing a general biological sciences course rather than nutrition, especially as I share most of my lectures with Bio Med students. The aim of this year is to create a basic understanding of these topics, which is useful but a little frustrating when you want to learn specifically about nutrition. Thankfully, our first year doesn’t count at all towards our degree, we simply need to pass it to get into second year, so that takes the pressure off a bit!
I did look at nutritional therapy courses, but unfortunately these are a little less well-regulated than doing a 3- or 4-year degree in Nutrition, which has a far greater scientific basis. Next year the course will become much more specific to Nutrition, and that’s what I’m hanging on for. I can’t wait to learn about more relevant topics and choose some of my modules, such as Sports Nutrition. I should mention that I’m also really looking forward to my third year, when I have a year of studying abroad or a year in placement (I chose the 4-year sandwich Nutrition course but 3 years is an option too). All this chemistry and maths will be worth it in the end, when I get to call myself a Registered Nutritionist and finally be able to combine my knowledge with personal training. (Although you should also know that once you graduate it takes a further 3 years of experience to go from being an Associate Registered nutritionist to a Registered Nutritionist).
The work schedule is pretty intense too; we have between 10-20 hours of lectures every week, I have a lot of 9AMs (and a lot of 6AM workouts) with 3hr lab practicals and their time-consuming write-ups thrown in for good measure. So there is a fair bit of work compared to some degrees, but hey, at least I’m getting my money’s worth…
I feel like I’ve been really negative about the course but that wasn’t my intention – I don’t want you to think that I dislike it, because I don’t! I find almost all of it really interesting. Challenging but also interesting and I am enjoying it – I’m just looking forward to the parts I really want to learn about.
Anyway, there’s a little update on how I’m finding the course so far! If you have any questions about it or if you have any blog post suggestions that you’d like me to share then please comment below!
Thanks for reading and enjoy your evenings!
Over and out,