Fourth year dental student Matthew Billington tells us about his journey from football to dentistry, with active interests in volunteering and charity work. Oh, and let’s not forget the body building too.
Matthew Billington wasn’t always going to become a dentist. The 4th year dental student and fitness enthusiast dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. At age 16 he was part of the Norwich City Academy.
"After I finished with Norwich, I had to choose what I was going to do," he said. After careful consideration, he decided that studying dentistry was the route he wanted to take.
"It’s a great career and there is huge progression available in dentistry. King’s was definitely my first choice. Not only is the faculty second in the world for dentistry, but London itself was a huge draw."
After leaving the football club, Matthew moved into his current athletic venture, bodybuilding.
"I found a passion for bodybuilding and regular sessions at the gym has helped my mental health; it helps me focus and stay disciplined during my days studying too."
Matthew started bodybuilding in 2016 and has been training for almost three years now. Earlier this year he participated in his first competition in Birmingham and qualified for the British finals which will take place in November this year.
Charity work and volunteering
The third string to Matthew’s bow is the volunteering and charity work he's pursued through opportunities at King’s. This included a volunteer programme in Lebanon in 2017 called The Sanctuary Programme. It offered an opportunity for staff and students to assist with the humanitarian crisis that year, and Matthew spent a week volunteering at a Syrian refugee camp.
As a child Matthew spent several years in Istanbul in Turkey, surrounded by the extremes of poverty and wealth. Influenced by his time in Istanbul and exposed to the poorer conditions of the city, he has always wanted to help and give back.
In any charity work, you end up getting a lot more out of it than you ever put in. You grow as a person and learn a lot about yourself when you do humanitarian aid.– Matthew Billington
As a first-year student he couldn’t offer much assistance in the field of dentistry, but instead provided social support to the children at the refugee camp, helping them with cooking, teaching English and facilitating sports and games.
The experience gave him a taste of what he could do and since then has been involved in several other volunteer projects in South Africa and Bangladesh.
"I never want to just stand by, I want to make a difference when I can. Each opportunity has been such an eye-opening, life-changing experience that I couldn't turn down," he said. "It was so humbling and gratifying to be part of these ventures."
Indeed, Matthew was recently selected as the recipient of the annual Aaron Gurmail Award. Nominated by his peers, Matthew sees it as a great honour to be recognised for the charity, volunteering and community work he has done.
What does the future hold?
It certainly doesn’t look like things are going to slow down for Matthew as this year he takes on the role of President of the student group, the Dental Society. He sees the position as an opportunity to develop further skills in leadership, communication and finance.
"It’s great for networking as well. In this role, you get to meet many people who will mentor you throughout your dental career."
Matthew is focused on expanding the Continuing Professional Development opportunities for students during his time as President.
If we can offer students as many of these extra opportunities as possible, it will help them feel more comfortable with the dental treatments they will do in their future career and set them on a better track.– Matthew Billington
As to whether he will continue the other hobbies and pursuits, it’s a firm yes.
"You can get into quite a big bubble studying and working in dentistry. It is so important to have your side hustles to push you in a positive direction, and keep on improving yourself," he explains.
"You have five years here, and it’s not just five years to pass one, two, three, four, five and then qualify; it’s five years to set yourself up for a career and you’ll be on a great path to success."
His advice for new students? "Get involved, whatever it is, and things will come back to you in a positive way."
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