Sophie's story

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Work experience with a visual impairment

A 21-year-old visually impaired final year student studying at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, is no stranger when it comes to shooting to win.

As captain of her netball team, Sophie Stowell plays the position of shooter and is used to scoring goals while taking her side to success.

This time Sophie’s acumen has secured a nine-week paid work experience placement with Barclays Retail Banking in Canary Wharf. This has been made possible throughLeonard Cheshire’s innovative Change100 programme which offers paid internships with high performing companies in the UK. In May, Sophie had the opportunity to meet Samantha Cameron at areception at Number 10 to talk about the programme.

Sophie’s visual impairment, called Stargardt macular dystrophy, was diagnosed at 13 after a visit to her local hospital in Oxford, where she lives with her mum, dad and 18-year-old sister. 

After attending school in Oxford, Sophie won a place at Cambridge University studying Natural Science, specialising in pharmacology.

Sophie said: ‘I found out about the Change100 programme through the disability resource centre at my university. I thought it sounded like a great opportunity so decided I should apply. I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the assessment day in London.’

She added: ‘I couldn’t believe it to be honest and am really looking forward to the challenge. I am excited and a little bit nervous all at the same time. When they told me I would be joining Barclays, I was really pleased. I can’t wait to get started. I am considering taking a fourth year at Cambridge and want to study management studies. This placement would give me an amazing start.’

Change100 is a good way for young disabled people to gain some vital work experience.It can be difficult to pluck up the courage to apply for a job out there. I didn’t think I would be good enough and lacked confidence, but getting the placement has been amazing.

Sophie, a passionate organiser, has also set up a support group for visually impaired students in Cambridge so they can share tips on how to navigate the city safely.

She added: ‘Cambridge is a busy place, lots of people socialise in nightclubs but it can be difficult for visually impaired people to do this because of night blindness. Therefore, we get together in coffee shops, as it gives us a chance to socialise, chat and swap stories.’

 

First published on www.leonardcheshire.org

The following story is from a graduate who used Change 100 who support disabled students into internships, offering mentoring and guidance throughout the internship. Other organisations as well as your university careers service can help support you in your next steps, please take a look on our resources page for further information.