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Q&A with Eunice Hackel

Eunice is completing her final year of the Psychology with Education BSc degree. Returning to study after working full time, she shares the new perspectives that UCL life has brought her.

What were your first impressions of UCL?

My first impression of UCL was that it was massive. I was sure I was going to get lost trying to find lecture halls and classrooms. Thankfully, the programme was at the IOE which has its own building. As time passed, I had to learn to think of UCL as a city within a city and this helped me to be brave and explore different facilities.

Secondly, one is spoilt with choices in terms of societies, facilities, volunteering opportunities and extra-curricular activities.

Finally, it is very diverse. I went to a talk by the department of international development and we were asked to find on the map the country of the person next to us. The person next to me was from Taiwan. Even though I had heard of Taiwan before, I could not find it on the map. This really got me thinking that there is a world outside Europe and a huge percentage represents UCL.

If you are interested in history and cultures you will never stop learning at UCL, even outside the classroom.

What do you enjoy most about your degree programme?

I enjoyed the link between education and psychology the most. I was never decisive about which of the two I enjoyed more, so a combination of both solved the problem for me. Having gone to school outside the UK, it was very interesting to be introduced to the English education system and learn to have a critical lens on education and its policies.

Criticising a system is easy. But what solutions are being offered? With psychology I felt solutions were given on how to tackle some of the problems within education holistically and inclusively without losing oneself in politics and government decisions."


Another highlight was the visit to UCL Pathology Collection to study real brains and other organs. I really liked the study about the brain and its influence on behaviour and actually going to see a real brain.

 

What is the biggest challenge you face while studying?

From my perspective, the combinations of the modules were well-chosen. Nevertheless, the jump between year one and year two was immense. The second year was very challenging for me, mostly due to personal health reasons but I was given enough support by my tutors and the UCL support services so managed to complete the year and progress to year three.

What do you hope to do after completing your degree?

When I started doing the course, I was sure I’d progress to the postgraduate degree in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at UCL. However, after volunteering and working for Great Ormond Street Hospital, I found that I did not enjoy being in a clinical environment and preferred being in an educational setting. I am hoping to get into Primary PGCE or get into the Teach First Development Programme and proceed to the government-funded training to become an educational psychologist. I discussed my options with a career adviser from both the IOE careers support and UCL Careers services and they suggested I should consider the order I want to proceed in. So, I am still contemplating. 

As an EU student, how do you think the system of learning or researching at UCL differs from that in your home country of Germany? 
Psychological research relies on research articles from reliable databases. What astonished me the most was the number of databases we had access to at an undergraduate level. I think this might be one of the main differences to other universities that give access to important databases at a later point. I don’t remember having access to so many different databases during my time in Vienna, but maybe I was not researching properly. UCL itself has numerous libraries but it does not end there. We have access to the libraries of other universities as well.

Equally, it was refreshing to not only to be taught by “traditional” university professors but by clinicians, researchers, and other relevant personnel. To be taught by someone who has had more than twenty years’ experience actively working with children with autism makes a huge difference in my opinion.

I mean, is it not fascinating for a student to have lectures inviting them to participate in research on eating disorder, informing them on their current research on bilingualism or on the use of virtual reality in mental health?"

Most of the lectures used up-to-date methods in communicating with and keeping us engaged, especially during the Covid-19 outbreak (Teams, Zoom, Doodle poll, Kahoot and various platforms). I must say I was impressed and learnt one or two new things from them.

What has been your experience of moving to and living in London?

I like the diversity of cultures and people in London. I know that this wasn’t always the case fifty to sixty years ago, but London shows the melting-pot principle can work when people are left to be who they are culturally, intellectually and religiously. Coming from Germany, we do not have this acceptance and we are working on it. I have learnt to be more tolerant to people from different backgrounds and coming to UCL has even manifested this attitude more.

London is expensive, but on the other hand, there are many ways of making good money aside if you can work flexibly. Before UCL, I was used to a 40 hours (per week) working pattern, but university life teaches you to think out of the box to make small amounts of money here and there. A good place to look is the Student Union’s Jobshop.

Equally, I was lucky to rediscover London from a different perspective. Hanging out with international students who are thirsty to discover every part of the city helped me to not just see the city from a more vibrant and vivid angle, but I learnt to enjoy and appreciate the diversity even more. Seeing that they fitted into London regardless of their background was a good indicator that London could not be that horrible. I am forever grateful for this lesson.  

Have you lived in UCL accommodation?

In the second term of the first year I decided to move and found accommodation with the support of UCL accommodation. I opted for the catered option - it saved me a lot of time having to come from work and prepare dinner. And who can say no to breakfast served in the morning? I think it is one of my best memories at UCL in retrospect.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I like joining in activities provided by societies. In the first year I joined the African Caribbean society and helped planning Black History Month. I also joined the Stage Crew society, learning about sound production. My favourite society remains the Jazz society with it infectious band, and the handball society.

Have you used any of UCL’s support services?

Yes. I was going through some up and downs in my second year, so I went to see the Student Psychological and Counselling Services. They gave me a comprehensive update on the choices I had and made suggestions from which I could choose from, such as the BAATN (Black, African and Asian Therapy Network) or therapists recommended by BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. The University GP and my Personal Tutor were also very helpful. On the same note, our degree’s team was incredibly supportive when one of our classmates passed away. We cannot thank our tutors enough for their efforts to help us during very painful times.

Has receiving a scholarship or bursary had an impact on your studies?

Yes. I received the UCL Undergraduate Bursary which I believe is available to all UK/EU undergraduate students at UCL to help towards the cost of books, accommodation, groceries, transport etc. It is assessed in accordance with one’s household income. In my case, being a mature student and supporting myself, it has been a tremendous help.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences at the IOE?

Being the graduates of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was nice to experience that there is an institution or department that treats its students humanely and not as commodities. It is a shame at times that the outside world sees only grades and not the people who made the grades possible by working meticulously to give us knowledge.

Perhaps the pandemic has reminded us once more that human experience comes before everything else. And this is what I would recommend the IOE for."