Abbie’s journey: From student to staff

There’s nothing we love more than a good success story – and Visitor Service Assistant Abbie’s time at Winterbourne is certainly one. Initially a student volunteer, Abbie has blossomed into a full-time staff member. Read on to discover her story, in her own words.  

Like many of you, my first experience at Winterbourne was as a visitor looking for a fun day out with friends. Winterbourne become a lifesaver for me in 2020; I had just started university in September, and with the stress of the pandemic, moving away from home, and trying to make new friends, I needed some mental TLC. That was when a small group of course mates and I heard of Winterbourne. The house wasn’t open, and everyone was wearing masks and tucked behind plastic screens, but the garden bathed in late summer sunshine certainly made up for it.

It wasn’t until the beginning of my second year, following countless visits and the house reopening, that I switched my visitor title for shop volunteer. The first year of my history degree was done and I was looking into what my post-graduation options may be, when I spotted a poster on campus about opportunities to volunteer.

Heritage had always piqued my interest, from growing up visiting heritage sites with family, to studying history at the time, specifically an art history module on the Arts and Crafts movement. So, I got back home and immediately sent an email. And before I knew it, I was proudly rocking my new Winterbourne badge (which I still use to this day; some might call me a hoarder).

After a couple of autumn months volunteering, watching the leaves change in the Walled Garden and chatting to visitors, luck reared its head once again. Winterbourne was looking for casual staff members to work front-of-house, and I was asked if this was something I’d be interested in doing. I very calmly said it sounded an amazing opportunity and that I would think on it.

Of course, I then called my parents whilst skipping home, over the moon with this new job opportunity during my time at university. I was not as cool and collected on the phone as I was when the role was first mentioned! And so, I upgraded to not only having a badge, but holding the house keys to open the site every morning.

Thus, my second year of university found me working a day and a half a week on visitor reception. And whilst I spent my final year working with the lovely ladies on the Aston Webb reception over on the University’s main campus, I popped back for the odd shift here and there at Winterbourne as well.

It was a lovely casual role for me throughout my degree, and I became a source of envy for my peers as they saw me walk into a botanical garden for work in the morning. As you can imagine, as my time in Birmingham drew to a close, with a looming dissertation and final year exams, I was sad to be saying goodbye to such a glorious casual position.

You may be wondering then how I’ve managed to worm my way back into the Winterbourne circle as a full-time staff member. Well, there seems to be a string of fate connecting me to Winterbourne. As I was packing up my final year room to move home, I received a phone call. Most delightfully, it was the Winterbourne team calling to discuss a full-time position it had open as one of its visitor services assistants.

I responded in a very similar fashion to previous times – that I’d think about it and that it sounded like a wonderful opportunity – ending the call after a brief chat. Then, I promptly ran into the living room to my housemates yelling about a job role at Winterbourne, excited and slightly dazed.

One first year visit, a volunteering role, and a casual student position later, I was starting out as Winterbourne’s newest Visitor Services Assistant in September 2023. It’s likely I have met you as you’ve passed through reception, paying for memberships or admission, chatting about the weather, or maybe I’ve even given you a call.

So, the next time you’re visiting, do stop and say hi! I’m incredibly lucky to be working in the environment and with the people I do; I can’t wait to see where Winterbourne takes me in the future.