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What's it like intercalating in clinical sports science?

In this blog Q&A, Naa Amua Quaye (Year 5) shares a detailed experience of intercalating in Bangor!

What is clinical sports science about and why did you choose to do it?

I chose to intercalate in this area because I am very passionate about the role of lifestyle medicine and the impact of diet and regular exercise in disease prevention and management. During our time at medical school, we are told time and time again about how lifestyle management should be the first port of call in management plans (especially for ISCE’s when the lifestyle, medical and surgical management hierarchy gets ingrained into your brain) but aren’t really taught anything beyond advising patients to have a healthy diet and do exercise. So I wanted to have some time to delve deeper into the exercise aspect.

I specifically chose to do clinical sports science as opposed to sports science (another degree offered by Bangor) as I was very interested in a module called ‘Exercise is Medicine’, solely offered with the clinical sports science degree. I am glad I chose this option as I got to learn about the scientific underpinnings underlying the benefits of exercise, the role it plays in helping with the management of chronic conditions and disease prevention as well as the practical aspects of developing and implementing individualised exercise programmes.

I chose to intercalate specifically after 4th year because I wanted to have the peace of mind in knowing that I’d completed the ISCE’s. For me, I thought I’d find it easier readjusting from a break coming from completing 2 clinical years as opposed to 1 (I thought the knowledge would be a bit easier to recall).

Also, I chose to do it after 4th year because it meant that when I came back into medicine after my intercalation, there wouldn’t be the added stress of knowing that there was such a big assessment ahead. This would mean that I could focus more on maximising my time for learning and also practicing my clinical skills purely for the sake of learning, rather than prioritising an exam I would need to pass.

How did you find adjusting from medicine into intercalation?

We started the term in mid September so it was nice to have the extra time off at the start of the year. It felt slightly like going back to Fresher’s to be honest with you, in terms of familiarising yourself with the new environment, where buildings are and navigating your way around a whole new university’s online system. Overall, the adjustment process was fairly quick and it didn’t really take that long to settle in! The timetable had significantly fewer contact hours/week than medicine which was so welcomed. Choosing modules was something new that I enjoyed, as it meant that my learning could be targeted towards aspects that were mentally stimulating for me.

With regard to the skills that I picked up, I struggled at the beginning of the year in terms of understanding, reading and getting through research papers (without feeling mentally tired and the need to sleep - there’s just something special about research papers that make me want a nap, lol!). Engaging with a whole article to the point where I followed what was being said was a very slow process for me and often I would find myself re-reading the same line about a billion times.

Also, the different style of assessments was something I had to get used to, especially when it came to essay writing. Coming from medicine, although I had prior experience of citing and formatting scientific articles from reflective pieces and SSC write ups etc, I don’t think it was something I was fully prepared for. Background reading, selecting articles for sources and changing the style of the essays depending on the module and the topic in question was definitely a skill I learned and practiced during the year.

Reflecting on this, I realise that as the year progressed I got a lot better and faster at reading and understanding research articles and now I am able to critically search and filter research articles. Now, purely for interest sake, I am actively reading up on topics I find intriguing so I have actually come a long way (gone are the days of napping mid paper reading session!). However, I always found the deadline season to be a period of short lived stress. I don’t think I ever got used to having multiple assignments on the go!

What opportunities from the degree did you have?

In terms of academic opportunities, Bangor offer a paid internship scheme during the 2nd semester. The options for the internship covered a wide variety of disciplines and I thought it would be a really good opportunity to get more practical experience, especially in fields that I found interesting. As it is a university sponsored scheme, it is designed to be really flexible in order to fit in with your studies which was also a bonus. There were some clinical options which I applied for and was successful in obtaining a place on a project involving evaluating the roll out of a patient centred outcomes assessment tool for use by wheelchair service providers in NHS England.

The team I was working with were extremely friendly, welcoming and very helpful.

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, there was a halt in the data collection process so some adjustments had to be made in terms of what I could do. Thankfully, due to the flexibility of the department I was able to continue working from home and got to help out with other aspects of various people’s projects. I got the opportunity to help edit an academic manuscript for publication and then also got the opportunity to be a reviewer for a systematic review on the economic evaluation of the use of phototherapy in various photosensitive diseases.

As the lockdown restrictions eased, we were able to get back some of the data for the original project I was supposed to be working on and got to work on some aspects of the analysis. This was a very eye opening experience into the world of academia and taught me a range of skills, which I am sure will become even more valuable as I progress throughout my career.

As part of the degree programme, I got the chance to be involved in a research project which gave me a taste of the practicalities involved in research and data collection in a sports lab setting. These sessions involved some early morning wake up calls (which were a bit tough to get used to again) but I was able to use my phlebotomy skills from medicine to take venous blood samples and glucose finger pricks and although the data collection process was sadly cut short by COVID-19, I am very thankful for the experience itself.

What was your most enjoyable moment from the degree?

I really enjoyed the amount of time I had ‘free’ outside my contact hours. Coming from 4th year, which for me was a tough year, it felt nice to be able to have the opportunity and time to get involved in a variety of things I was interested in. I was able to let my creative side flourish through developing my skills in photography (my photos below in this blog!) and cooking over the course of the year. I also had the time to read books for pleasure, unrelated to the course, get involved in olympic weightlifting training as well as coach informal fitness sessions for my housemates and some friends I made.

What was it like being in Bangor?

I really loved being in Bangor. I lived in a house with 3 other girls in my year, who I knew of before. Before starting the course, I felt a bit uncertain in terms of how the year would unfold but my worries were short lived. They were such lovely housemates and we all got on so well which definitely added massively to how much enjoyable the whole experience was. There were also 2 other girls from the year below us, who were in Bangor intercalating as well so it was a nice little group of us together. One of the girls was on placement in Bangor during Christmas time in 4th year so we all had a look at houses online and she went to view them in person and took videos for us and we all decided on a house that way. This made the finding accommodation A LOT easier and way less stressful than it could have been.

The great thing about Bangor university is that all the societies are free to join so it gave me the opportunity to try out a variety of sports with no worries about commitment. I got to try out tennis, volleyball, squash, dance and powerlifting but over the course of the year I stuck with squash and olympic weightlifting (not affiliated with a university club) on a regular basis and went to the other sessions as much/little as I wanted (the gym at Brailsford practically became my second home)!

In terms of more academic extracurricular activities, Bangor also offer free languages for all classes (similar to Cardiff) so I took advantage of these by signing up for evening French classes once a week, as I wanted to keep practicing and improving my French. This was actually very challenging (I think grammar and I just have a strained relationship to be honest!) but enjoyable nonetheless.

My housemates and I all appreciate nature so we also did some exploring of the surrounding areas as a house which was really nice, so a few walks, hikes and afternoon/day trips to various places. Bangor and Anglesey are really picturesque and I love how the scenery is so complete, from mountains to beaches, you’ll find it all.

What is your overall opinion of your experience?

Overall, I absolutely loved my experience at Bangor and would 100% without a doubt do it again. Prior to moving to Bangor, I had my uncertainties about the whole experiences, primarily the fact that most of my friends would be in final year and I wouldn’t really get to see them that often due to the distance and the length of time the train takes (Transport for Wales is really not the one!) and also the fact that I would be moving to a whole new place and starting over in a sense (in terms of not knowing anyone, entering the final year of course where people already knew each other and having to think about meeting new people and making friends) but looking back now I am so glad I decided to do it as I have gained a lot from the experience.

How have you found adjusting from intercalation back into medicine?

To be honest, at first I was slightly nervous about starting medicine again! I think my intercalated year was just the break that I needed which came at the right time for me. I think adjusting to the routine of placement life will take a bit of getting used to again but hopefully it will come back fairly quickly.

Fifth year is also a year of big decisions, from applying for foundation year jobs to sorting out elective plans. For now, I am feeling refreshed and hopeful that it will be a year of opportunities, growth and learning. I am just preparing myself for whatever the year holds in store for me.


If you have any questions about sports science specifically or intercalating in Bangor don’t hesitate to drop me a message or send me an email. I’d be more than happy to have a chat and answer any questions!

My word of advice if you are considering intercalation is just to make sure that you have some sort of interest in whatever it is that you want to intercalate in, because when it comes down to it, completing assignments, writing essays and dissertations are not the most thrilling of activities so having that foundation helps make the whole process infinitely more bearable.

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