Hi, my name’s Orla and I am a final year student in the University of Limerick. I am currently studying the Bachelor of Science in Psychology programme. I often get asked why I chose Psychology and honestly the answer is simple; I was 18 years old and unsure what I wanted to do with my life (as I’m sure most 18-year-olds are!). The BSc in Psychology was the only course that stood out to me. A guidance counsellor exposed me to this course, which previously I had heard very little about. Studying about people’s behaviours and the way their mind works sounded like an opportunity I couldn’t give up. The fact this programme was offered in UL was a big bonus. I’m from Limerick myself and have visited UL on numerous occasions while growing up. The campus always seemed amazing to me. I vividly remember having a conversation with one of my best friends in secondary school back when I was in first year, saying “I’m going to go here when I’m older”. Little did I know that eight years later I’d be writing a blog about my experience here.
I honestly love most things about my course. I love how interactive the classes are, how the lecturers are approachable and really want to help, how I got to experience living abroad with the Erasmus+ programme, and how genuinely interesting the subjects are. With all that being said, as cliché as it sounds, the thing I love the most is the friends I have made. With the course intake being small, it allowed me to get to know almost everyone in my course, something which is extremely rare in university settings. Not only did I get to know lots of new people on a personal level, but I also got to make friends with people who have the same interests I do.
So, I have discussed the past and the present. It seems fitting to end this introduction of who I am with what I plan to do next. My aspiration is to one day be a counselling psychologist, however the route is long. Next year I hope to go into a master’s programme, in which my knowledge of psychology will be developed further. Following this I hope to work as an Assistant Psychologist, eventually leading me to the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. But as we all know, what we plan for rarely happens! I’m excited to see where my road will take me. Now, let’s talk about my work placement experience…
The University of Limerick offers the opportunity to undertake cooperative education placement. With the strong employability focus the university holds, graduates are well-equipped for the workplace, a huge benefit of studying here. I completely my cooperative placement in the 3rd year of my degree. I was employed as a Research Assistant in the Department of Psychology in UL. The knowledge I acquired throughout the months working there will benefit me for life.
My main role was as one of the Senior Project Managers in the ‘Sanctuary with Psychology Project’. The project aims to provide socio-psychological support to migrants and migrant families. The main events were two Munster Global Villages and multiple Language & Story Exchanges. The Munster Global Village involved discussing different topics around various cultures and playing games. These meetings led up to the two main events, which are documented on YouTube. The Language & Story Exchanges ran over 4-week periods. The aim was to form bonds between newcomers and Irish nationals through the art of storytelling. Activities were performed in English, allowing newcomers to practice their language skills. These activities were extremely rewarding and thought me so much about myself. It was these experiences that confirmed to me that I want to help people in whatever way I can.
In addition to this project, I completed numerous fulfilling tasks and obtained a variety of new skills. I tutored a 3rd year university module, I became a member of the Migration and Integration research lab, I co-authored a literature review for an external organisation ‘Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV’ (GOSHH), and my partners (Aika and Didi) and I developed an 11-part video series called ‘Diversity’ for West Limerick Resources, I became a member of the Athena Swan Committee in UL, I attended and spoke at events, and lots more smaller tasks throughout. I developed my organisational and communication skills to the next level. Moreover, I became way more culturally competent.
My placement changed my outlook on life. I learned so much about other cultures and people, as well as about myself. I had an amazing experience in my time working in the Department of Psychology. I achieved many successes and overcame some difficulties. It was not the placement I ever imagined I would partake in, working so closely with lecturers and researchers from all different aspects of social and political psychology, but it is a placement that I am extremely grateful to have gotten the opportunity to complete. I am very fortunate to have got such a supportive supervisor in Dr Anca Minescu, who ensured I was comfortable with my tasks and made me such a focal point in her team.
With all that being said, and all the experiences I have had in my 4 years in UL, I offer two pieces of advice. Firstly, before you decide on what you want to research your options. You may be surprised how many career paths a course can offer. When thinking of psychology we often think of the typical ‘therapist’ perspective (ironic, as this is what I hope to do). However, psychologists work in so many more settings; in schools, hospitals, organisations, prisons, sports… the list goes on. Make sure you know your options. My second piece of advice is for if you decide to study psychology, be prepared for the most commonly asked question: ‘Can you read my mind?’ I offer you the best of luck in whatever route you decide to take, hopefully my path can help you in some way.