Interviewers: Joint Project – Aleya Arziz Marzuki, Lydia Yeomans and Christos Ioannidis (Bugle Team)

Welcome to the Tricks of the Trade series, a project meant to bridge the gap between students! This interview scheme, brought to you by the Bugle team, is meant to bridge the gap between students of different years and help younglings learn from old-timers! Join us as fellow students share their thoughts about their uni experience and give a tip or two about how to get through life at Bedford Way!

For this part, we will be interviewing three postgraduate students from different areas! So no matter what year you’re on, be sure to give this a good read. Your future career may be hiding in these paragraphs.

For the second instalment of the Tricks of the Trade: Postgraduate Tales, we approached Katie Yon, who recently completed the MSc in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Practice, offered by UCL and the Anna Freud centre. Here’s what she had to say:

Please tell us a few words about your academic background, your current career status and any future plans. 

I completed my BSc in Psychology at the University of Warwick in 2012, and decided to move into further education to enhance my research and clinical experience in the field of mental health. I applied to the two-year MSc programme in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Practice at UCL in collaboration with the Anna Freud Centre due to my longstanding interest in child and adolescent mental health, which I completed in the summer of 2014. I now work as a research assistant at UCL Medical School and am involved in a project that aims to improve doctors’ management of patients with medically unexplained symptoms. I am also currently applying for a doctoral programme in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy).

What steps did you take to secure your place on the programs you applied to? (e.g. work experience, volunteering, etc.)

I had built up a range of research and clinical experiences before applying for the MSc, all on a voluntary basis. I worked as a research assistant in the developmental psychology department at the University of Reading for 6 months one day a week whilst carrying out my sixth form studies, assisting PhD students with research and coding video data for a study investigating preferential looking in toddlers. I also volunteered for the charitable organisation Victim Support for 2 years prior to my MSc, supporting families who had been victims of crime on a practical and emotional basis. Other experiences included volunteering in a toddler group during summer holidays and assisting children with reading in schools. Although I had a number of experiences to draw on, the MSc tutors emphasised the importance of the quality of applicants’ experiences, rather than the quantity. It was important for me to show what I had learnt from my experiences and how this had enhanced my understanding of research or clinical work with young people, rather than adding up experiences purely to tick the boxes.

How did you find the transition from undergrad to postgrad studies?

The MSc was extremely challenging at times and required me to balance both research and clinical work alongside academic demands. However, along with the added responsibility also came flexibility – I could organise my time in a way that worked best for me and I was able to fit in part-time work as a child-minder during the second year. Of course, a Masters programme will be a step up from an undergraduate degree in terms of intensity, but our exams and assessments were well spaced out, so no 5 exams in 5 days like on the BSc!

Your degree involved extensive work with children and adolescents in a clinical setting. Tell us a bit about this experience, and the most important thing you got from it.

Working as part of a Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team in the NHS for 9 months was incredibly enjoyable, I just wish I could have stayed for longer! I learnt a lot about my own therapeutic style through participating in therapy sessions as a ‘co-therapist’ and delivering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to children individually. Everyone in the team was very welcoming and I was able to progress at my own pace with the full support of supervisors within CAMHS and at the Anna Freud Centre, both of whom I met with regularly to discuss my work and personal reflections. Observing the work of clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and family therapists taught me a great amount about different stances and methods of approaching an issue. Carrying out research in a clinical setting also brought a deeper level of understanding to my clinical work and helped me consider therapeutic work from multiple perspectives. The degree opened my eyes to the importance of research and evidence-based practice and increased my interest in pursuing research as a key part of my future career, something that I had not fully considered before the MSc.

What did you think of studying at the Anna Freud Centre? How does it compare to studying in a larger university setting? 

Studying at a place as intimate yet well connected as the Anna Freud Centre was a unique experience. I felt well supported within my small group of 12 students and was able to learn from some of the leading minds in the field of child & adolescent mental health. I felt valued as a student and, as our groups were small, we had a large amount of contact with staff through which we received detailed feedback on our progress at all stages of the degree.

If you could give one piece of advice to undergraduates currently working their way towards a degree like your MSc, what would you tell them?

 My main piece of advice would be to enjoy your work experiences as you go along and to begin to think more carefully about how these have influenced you personally and professionally. It’s much more important to think about what you have learnt from your work rather than the number of places you have volunteered at. I found my MSc to be extremely valuable, but there are many other routes into research or clinical work with young people so it’s important not to think of a masters as the be-all and end-all. Gaining experiences in other areas such as in voluntary or private sectors or within the NHS is also highly valuable and will stand you in good stead for a career in psychological research and practice.

We are grateful to Katie for taking the time to support the Bugle with this project, and for being interested in helping out younger students with finding their place in the world. Should anyone have further questions for Katie, she has allowed for students to come in contact. Please communicate with the Bugle if you are interested in this option. 

The concluding instalment of the TotT series will be available next week – so brace yourselves! For this last update, we will be asking a postgraduate student from Organisational Psychology about her story and advice!