“I wanted a career of my own”
I am from Eritrea, in East Africa. I am half Italian and half Eritrean, and was born and raised in Eritrea so I feel that is where home is.
My family and I have lived in and travelled to many different countries. I am a mother of two children and it was mostly for their sake that I decided to have a base whilst my husband continued to travel for his job. When I moved to London I had a newborn and I wasn’t thinking much about employment then, but I knew I needed to do something eventually.
One of the things I had really wanted to do when I was a teenager was to become a nurse, but it was like a forgotten thought. So many years had gone by that I felt maybe that ship had sailed. Throughout the years I had mentioned it to my husband, and he’d always encouraged me to pursue it. So with his blessing, I decided to investigate what it would take to become a nurse and ended up applying to several universities, one of which – King’s College – accepted me.
It has been a journey and it hasn’t always been smooth. I’d had a big gap in education and returning to it has been challenging, especially in a language that I am not accustomed to. But I am still going at it – as it’s not over yet. I have done different kinds of jobs throughout the years as an assistant teacher and secretarial jobs. I worked in hospitality and as a childminder, as well as raising my own children.
It has been a journey and it hasn’t always been smooth…
But what I actually really wanted was to have a career, something that I felt passionate about. I loved the idea of being a nurse and I still do. I was able to get the bursary – in fact, I was part of the last intake of nursing students that were awarded this. The bursary meant I could give nursing a try – and I feel very fortunate for that. Being a student has also been challenging as I have a parallel life of being a mother. I am a mother first, then a student or a nurse. It takes a juggling of priorities as well as time management. But it is also very rewarding, and I would do it all over again, knowing very well what lies ahead. That said, ignorance is bliss as they say and I’m glad I didn’t know everything in advance.
Some days are better than others. I do think my girls see what I do. Hopefully, they will look back and remember me doing my dissertation, submitting essays, and hopefully it will be an inspiration to them. I hope they will know that whatever choices they make in life, they can go back and amend or change or switch any of them and do something different. As well as doing something worthwhile – there is nothing worse than slaving away for eight hours and not enjoying it.
It has been difficult being a student nurse because you have to build a lot of resilience. I thought I had great resilience. I was raised in a difficult situation during the Eritrean civil war and I faced a lot there, but what you need as a nurse is personal resilience. There is a certain level you are expected to perform to, especially as a third-year student. Having good self-esteem, I think, helps a lot. I find myself questioning myself a lot. But it’s hard not to self-doubt – am I being a good mother, am I being a good student, am I being a good nurse? It’s a daily thing you have to address in every task you face.
It’s hard not to self-doubt – am I being a good mother, am I being a good student, am I being a good nurse?
Seeing the reaction of the patients whenever I do anything which I think of as an ordinary task, or just reaching out or managing to anticipate their needs – that helps me to believe in what I do. Their reaction is better than a 1000 words, their happiness, the look on their faces, their ‘thank you’ – it makes it worthwhile, you don’t get that reward in other jobs. It’s priceless.
Having experienced different cultures across different continents – travelling across the world with my husband – I think it has enriched the way I relate to patients. I have seen and been exposed to so many walks of life, it has made me more sensitive to different people’s needs here. I would like to claim myself as a collection of the different exposures and life experiences that I have had. It has all made me appreciate more the ability we have to be part of someone’s life when they are at their most vulnerable and be able to shape that. I might not have been in their shoes, not lived their life, but I can try and empathise in some way. Moving around to so many different countries, often not being able to speak the language at all and trying to make sense of my experiences and trying to convey messages to people who don’t understand me – that has helped a lot.
I would like to claim myself as a collection of the different exposures and life experiences I have had.
Some of these simple life experiences have prepared me for nursing – the level of compassion required, and being non-judgemental. Your compassion levels change as you get older, I think – you allow for so much more, you are more understanding of where the patient is coming from when you have experienced more of life.
I think of my life as quite ordinary, because it has been my life, my reality and that’s what I have dealt with. It felt terrifying to come to London at first, in a big city trying to find my way round and settle, but now I feel at home. London it’s so cosmopolitan, so many different cultures. The city actually reminds me of myself a little – all the different cultures in me that I have experienced. I have become this melting pot which is who I am today. People always ask me where I am from, trying to figure out my accent. My features are different – they try to make connections. Yet, rarely their guess is right. Being Eritrean doesn’t feel so exotic as some say, perhaps because it’s who I am, my fibre. I haven’t been able to go back home as often as I would have liked. The reality of my life means that I have to let go of certain things to make space for coping with new realities. But such is the way of life.