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My Experience as a Professional Pathways Intern at St Nicholas Priory

When I first received confirmation about my placement at St Nicholas Priory, my initial reaction was, “Oldest building in Exeter? Never heard of it.” Little did I know the connection I’d make with the building and its volunteers. During my first meeting with a volunteer who gave me a tour, I was awestruck by the historical significance of the building and the dedication of the volunteers in maintaining it. The friendly environment immediately made me feel at home as I embarked on my 35-hour internship here.

On my first day, I met my project coordinator, a vibrant personality with whom I instantly connected. The overall objective of my internship was to create an interactive sensory tour for a local disability organization. They had previously provided a checklist of expectations for an accessible environment. It was quite an extensive list, but I embraced the challenge. Over the next two weeks, a couple of volunteers and I brainstormed ideas, aligning them with the organization’s checklist. We created instruction sheets for visitors, volunteer guidelines, and descriptions of each major room on the ground floor, such as the under croft, Tudor parlour, and kitchen.

As wheelchair users couldn’t access the upper floors, we focused on designing engaging activities for the grand rooms downstairs. Dressing up in Tudor attire, making spinach tarts, and incorporating a talented lute player added authenticity and excitement. With all the plans in place, I spent the following weeks fine-tuning PowerPoint presentations and taking care of miscellaneous tasks in preparation for the event.

Then, on Tuesday, July 18th, the highly anticipated day arrived. Despite some last-minute frenzy, we were ready as the first guests arrived. We welcomed them with teas, coffees, and friendly conversations before commencing the tour. I was thrilled to witness the visitors’ engagement and interaction with various elements throughout the experience. Personally, my favourite part was donning a Tudor hat and cloak, capturing a groovy photo with the lute player’s instruments. I even had the chance to taste the spinach tarts, I felt like both a visitor and volunteer.

The tour concluded with smiles and happy faces all around. It was evident that everyone had a wonderful time, thanks to the immense support provided by the dedicated volunteers. The fulfilment I witnessed in everyone solidified my belief that they are the heart and soul of the building. Their unwavering enthusiasm, constant meetings, management, and commitment to ensuring the guests’ satisfaction left a lasting impression on me.

To wrap up the day, we met with the disability group’s organizer, who praised the significant difference between their first and second visits. He was particularly impressed by how one member of his group was so attentive to the lute player, which was another major highlight for me. Our meeting ended with heartfelt thanks, followed by a staff meeting to reflect on the visit’s achievements. The positive outcomes mirrored the exceptional attitudes of everyone involved—an environment I wish I could replicate wherever I go.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the volunteers for embracing me as part of their team and allowing me to contribute to the visit’s preparations. To anyone reading this, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting St Nicholas Priory (open on Sundays and Mondays) or, for those residing in Exeter, considering volunteering at this remarkable building in the heart of the city. I reiterate my thanks to the entire team and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.


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