Ana Rodrigues is the College Nurse and Wellbeing Advisor who has always never been afraid to try something new – including gravy!
1. She used to be a geologist.
As a student in Lisbon she was always pulled in two directions.
“I lived almost parallel lives – looking at rocks through the microscope and lecturing in petrology [the origin, structure and composition of rocks] but at the same time, in all my free time, I was volunteering in health and social care roles”
So she decided to come to England, initially to work on community projects at DanceEast in Ipswich, and then to retrain as a nurse.
2. “What we know is that if we don’t look at a little thing that is niggling it tends to grow and grow.”
Ana points out that anyone who has suffered from anxiety will also tell you about headaches or exhaustion and this is your physical health impacted by your mental health.
“We need to foster a sense of well-being by looking at everything in the round”
Her previous work with crisis teams looking after people 24/7 in their own homes has convinced Ana that early intervention is key to helping people experiencing difficulties with mental health.
What excites her about her College role is the opportunity to lay good foundations for the next generation of researchers, thinkers and leaders.
3. She loves rock climbing, but it scares her.
She started at 15 and has climbed most of the major routes in Europe. Ana practises ‘trad’ rather than ‘sport’ climbing which means carrying equipment and working out a route, but leaving no trace when you leave the rockface.
She’s most scared abseiling down but says that she’s no more likely to fall coming down than when climbing up. This knowledge helps her to understand mental health:
“Anxiety technically stems from the same chemicals in your brain as adrenaline. Whether you are feeling anxious or excited is a frame of mind. If you work with this, it can help to reframe your response to situations like starting a new job.”
4. She is no longer a coffee addict.
Cafe culture in Portugal is important and drinking small expressos throughout the day is the norm. Student life revolved around the café and Ana would stay up late drinking “dark, acidic and quite gutsy” coffee while writing essays or revising, but she says, “these days I would advise something more structured!”
5. “I really understand that sense of when somewhere feels like home but is not quite home – that sense of belonging in two places.”
Gravy doesn’t exist in Portugal. When she first cooked a roast dinner for friends in Cambridge, she was confused by their request for a sauce made from the juices of the meat.
“So I'll make now the gravy, which is excellent, and I appreciate it. Very tasty. But then get really upset when everyone just pours lots on top of everything I have carefully cooked.”
Ana says that, like her, many students come from different countries and cultures. Her hope is to build security for everyone within the College community.
“This is your home. It can be rooted here. Because you belong here in all your entirety. Even if you don't belong fully anywhere anymore.”