"Life-changing" - that's how Samantha Souter has described her experience volunteering in an orphanage in South America.
The Learning Disability Nursing student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) visited Peru with international experience programme #DMUglobal in co-operation with International Volunteer HQ, to work with children with special needs.
She feels the overall experience has been "great" for both her nursing career and personal life.
Sam said: "I feel my time made such a difference to their lives.
"The children in the orphanage were amazing and the staff were great too.
"All their basic needs were met by nurses and the other students and I were there to spend quality time with them, something they don't usually get."
Sam wanted to give a bit extra and decided to do some fundraising in memory of her late sister Jodie.
"I raised £160 for toys for the children," she said. "This may not sound a lot of money but to them it meant a great deal and went a long way.
"It was really rewarding seeing them play with the toys, as there was very little for the children to play with."
Another highlight was the students' "home from home" with a local Peruvian family. "We stayed with mum, dad, two children, grandma and uncle and it was fab," she said. "It was great to experience the local culture and helped us fit in."
"Think outside the box - don't be limited to what people assume a Learning Disability Nurse should be"
Find out more about Learning Disability Nursing at the next DMU Open
DMU's Katie is named student nurse of the year
Back in Leicester, Sam is still reaping the rewards. "I have shared my experiences with other nurses and colleagues, who say they don't know anyone who has been able to do this and think it's fantastic," she said.
"It has also taught me to appreciate things more."
Sam is making the most of being a university student - as it's not something her teeenage self thought possible.
"I didn't reach my full potential in school, leaving without good grades due to dyslexia, which wasn't known at the time," said the 31-year-old from Nottinghamshire. "I never thought for one minute that I'd be at university."
It was the birth of her second child that inspired Sam to go back to college, resitting her English GCSE alongside a maths qualification.
"After a lot of hard work and dedication I did this and was awarded the student progression of the year award," said Sam, who progressed to a university access course and passed her Maths GCSE.
Sam chose to study Learning Disability Nursing because of her older sister.
"Jodie was born with cerebral palsy. She had a profound learning disability and severe epilepsy. Throughout my childhood I helped care for Jodie along with my three sisters," she said.
"Sadly, Jodie passed away when she was 17. Having this background of knowledge, care and compassion, I knew I wanted to give this care to others with a learning disability."
Enrolling at DMU in September 2016, Sam's dyslexia was diagnosed.
"I do not let this stop me," she added. "I am really enjoying my course, especially the placements.
"The course doesn't come without its stresses. Having a young family, assignments, exams and placements to juggle can be tricky at times, however I have a supportive husband and family who make all this possible for me. I also find my lecturers and the university as a whole very supportive."
Jillian Pawlyn, Senior Lecturer and Subject Lead - Learning Disabilities, said: "As Sam's personal tutor, I was really pleased that she had selected to go on the trip to Peru.
"This particular #DMUglobal trip was clearly a highly rewarding experience for Sam and I am proud of the difference she has made to the lives of the people she visited on the trip and through sharing her experience to inspire others.
"Sam continues to aim high and I am confident she will be an excellent Learning Disability Nurse."
Posted on Tuesday 9th October 2018