In 2021, we formed the role of University Ambassador to help support the creation of a student campaign.
Our University Ambassador, Orla, joined our Policy team and was instrumental in the development of the campaign.
As Orla’s time volunteering with us comes to an end, we asked her to reflect on her experiences volunteering in the role of University Ambassador.
What is the University Ambassador?
For the past year, I have been volunteering with Epilepsy Scotland as their University Ambassador.
The main goal of this role is to increase awareness of epilepsy as a condition within Scottish universities and to promote better support for students with epilepsy.
Last year, we surveyed students with epilepsy in Scotland. 64% of those surveyed said they felt that having epilepsy affected their studies and some felt that their peers and tutors lacked knowledge of what the condition is.
This enforced how important it was to have an open line of communication with universities to try and boost the support available to students.
For me, at the heart of the role is promoting the true experience and needs of students with epilepsy to enact a positive change in our universities.
What have we done?
This role began with the creation and launch of a student campaign last year which saw the publication of our student guide, a podcast where former students with epilepsy shared their stories, and an information webinar which looked at how epilepsy can affect a student’s university experience.
We had a positive response to the campaign, with around 30,000 people reached through social media.
We have also been contacting university services across Scotland trying to understand how students with epilepsy are currently supported both academically and in their personal lives.
In doing so, we have been promoting better training, knowledge, and our information resources.
Being in this role has been challenging at times, not all universities have been responsive, and I had to remind myself change takes time and patience.
However, despite the few unanswered emails, the work the Policy team at Epilepsy Scotland has been doing has definitely started to make a difference.
At the moment, we are aware that seven universities in Scotland have begun using our resources in some capacity, be it through their disability services or their first aid teams.
Although it is not every university, I still believe this is a huge step in raising awareness and beginning to get better support for students with epilepsy.
What has volunteering with Epilepsy Scotland given me?
Volunteering with Epilepsy Scotland has taught me a lot.
Not only have I learnt more about the condition of epilepsy itself, its symptoms and even how to administer medication, but I have also had the opportunity to hear how epilepsy can affect a person’s day to day life first hand from people with epilepsy.
It made me realise how impactful epilepsy can be and helped me to ensure all the work of the University Ambassador centred around these experiences and focussed on improving the support available to students with epilepsy.
Being the University Ambassador also gave me a lot personally, I have grown more in confidence and passion throughout the past year.
Moreover, it allowed me to feel like I was making a positive change no matter how small it was. I can only thank Epilepsy Scotland for allowing me this opportunity.
A final word
Although my time in this role has come to an end as I enter my first ‘grown-up’ job, I am excited to see where the role of University Ambassador will go next.
I know the team have some exciting things planned in the coming year.
My hope is that more universities will understand the importance of educating both students and staff about epilepsy and that all students with epilepsy will get the further and higher education experiences they deserve.
I would like to finish by paying recognition to the person who inspired me to volunteer with Epilepsy Scotland, my dear friend Eloise who passed away.
Ellie was a smart, creative, and joyous person who was loved by all her friends and family.
She had epilepsy herself and wanted to raise awareness of the condition and the effects it can have on a person’s life.
Her impact in my life played a huge part in how the campaign unfolded and she deserves as much credit for the strides we have made.
I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference to take the opportunity to volunteer with Epilepsy Scotland or any organisation that is passionate about making a positive change, it really is worth it.
If you are interested in our Student Campaign or learning more about the role of Student or University Ambassador, get in touch with our Policy and Campaigns Officer, Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org.