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Abby Sidnell

Abby is wearing a white blouse and dark skirt with her hands folded over one another. She has dark brown hair in a bun, is wearing glasses and stands in front of a wall of shelves with glasses on

Abby Sidnell

BOptom (Hons) Optometry 2020

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am a Norwich girl born and bred, currently working as a Pre-Registration Optometrist at Dipple & Conway, a family-run independent practice in the heart of the city. Thinking back over the last 10 years since I left college, I never would have expected to be where I am today.

After not getting the grades I needed at A Level to go to university, I took a job as a carer, but soon realised I still wanted to pursue further education. I enrolled on to an Access course at my local college and was able to start a degree in Forensic Investigation. This course was fascinating, but unfortunately jobs in the field were few and far between once I’d graduated.

It was while applying to various jobs that I came across a vacancy for an Optical Assistant role with a well-known high street optician. Once I’d started working in the opticians, I realised this was the place for me. I soon outgrew the role of assistant and wanted to take things further, so looked into Optometry courses. I was recommended ARU and, being close to Norwich, this worked perfectly for me.

I was accepted on to the course and haven’t looked back since, graduating with first class honours in 2020. It was while I was at ARU that I started working for Dipple & Conway, finding independent practice to be very much for me. They have supported me in my learning and taken me on as a pre-reg. My career is still in its early stages, but with so much scope for professional development and progression, I am looking forward to see what the future holds - I wonder what my story will be in the next 10 years!

2. What is your fondest memory at Anglia Ruskin University?

It might be cliché, but the people I met while there – everyone says you make lifelong friends at university, and it really is true!

3. What has been your favourite job? 

Definitely my current job as it challenges me every day - although I did enjoy a Christmas temp role in a sweet factory during my first degree, decorating various sweets and chocolates!

4. In one word, how would you describe ARU?


5. How did your time at Anglia Ruskin help you?

ARU taught me the skills I needed to start out on a lifelong career, without which I wouldn’t be able to do this job. The lecturers have such a range of experience and skills, it was inspiring and motivating throughout. ARU also has its own eye clinic, allowing us to learn in a realistic environment.

6. What did you love about your chosen course?

The thing I loved about Optometry was knowing that I had a clear career path at the end of the degree – from past experience I know how it feels to complete three years of hard work and study only to find that you can’t do much with it.

7. What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?

Graduation is an achievement in itself, so even if things don’t turn out exactly as you planned, no one can take away from you. It’s also fine not to feel like you know what you want to do straight away – you don’t need to have everything figured out at 22 years old! I actually loved starting Optometry later and having more life experience first.

8. What do you know now that you wish you had known while studying?

You can get through all the revision and exams, no matter how stressful and unachievable they feel at the time – you will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about! And use it as a measure of your own resilience when you meet future challenges.

9. Who was the biggest influence on your career?

It probably sounds silly, but myself – I had a lot going on in my personal life before starting at ARU, and I felt that pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do something bigger and better was what I needed, and it certainly was! And also my parents, who encouraged me to just go for it and apply to ARU.

10. What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t stress and stay positive! Things happen for a reason and it will all work out – just keep putting in the effort and enjoy the journey.

11. Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

People always tell me I seem calm and confident, which surprises me as I rarely feel that way inside - I’m a well disguised introvert at heart!

12. What’s next?

The current goal is to complete my pre-registration course (a year working under supervision following graduation, while completing assessments with the College of Optometrists for professional accreditation). This time next year I plan to be a fully qualified Optometrist, still working with Dipple & Conway, being a part of local community eye care in Norwich.

Alongside all this, my partner Adam and I have just bought our first house, so there’s lots of decorating and renovating to be done too!