Jack is an American student on the Psychology with Education BSc, class of 2019. He talks about mental health and discovering a love for psychology.
Tell us about your journey into UCL.
I started at UCL doing an Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for humanities which is a foundation course designed to help you prepare for university study in the UK. I come from the USA and there were students on my programme from all over the world. You take different modules to do with reading, research methods, how you cite things, etc.
After that year, I applied to UCL and started studying Language and Culture BA. I was on that programme for about a year and a half and then I took an interruption of study. During my time out I taught English as a foreign language. That experience made me more passionate about education which led me to looking at different programmes at UCL and finding the Psychology with Education BSc which I now study. It was a fairly interesting journey but I am really glad I found this programme!
What do you hope to do after completing your degree?
I want to become to a cognitive behavioural therapist so I will be doing some kind of further education to work towards that.
What would you say to somebody thinking of applying to the IOE to study your course?
If you have an interest in both psychology and education, it is definitely a good choice. Especially as you can cater it to what you want to do. For instance, I started this degree thinking I wanted to become a teacher but now I have discovered my love for psychology and now I want to become a therapist so I pick modules to fit my interests. Even though I no longer want to be a teacher, I really value the fact that I have studied education because it has helped to broaden my knowledge in terms of how people learn and the education system in the UK, as well as abroad, because all of that has an impact on our psychology. I would definitely say if you have an interest, do it.
“What were your first impressions of UCL?
When I arrived I was struck with how big the university is. It is very common in the US to have campus universities but I like that UCL facilities are generally in the same area but a little spread out so that you still get the feeling that you are in the city. You have so much going around you whilst still being in an academic environment.
How easy was it to settle in at UCL?
When I first moved here I went to the International Students’ Orientation Programme which was great and I am really glad that I went. They set up a whole week of events, the week before Freshers’ Week. They held a presentation explaining the education system and the healthcare system, among other things, so it was really nice to have that explained up front. They also had social events scheduled every single day so there was so much to do and it just made me feel so comfortable instantly. That experience made the transition very easy from the get go.
What is the biggest challenge you face while studying?
My mental health has been a challenge for me. That is the reason I took an interruption from study and that still impacts my studies now. The difference now is that I have the support in place to be able to deal with it. I am supported by my personal tutor and I have utilised the UCL Student Psychological and Counselling Services as well. So that has been my biggest hardship but also my biggest gain in a way because I have been able to overcome my struggles and now I am in my final year! There was a point in time where I couldn’t see if I would make it here.
What have you found most valuable about your degree programme?
I think the support from my tutors has been the most valuable to me. I have had such good support from my personal tutor, and all the tutors I have had here have just been so helpful and so honest. We don’t have an awkward student-teacher relationship; they really encourage you to be open and honest about what you are dealing with in your degree but also with mental health issues and emotional issues.
Tell us what it is like to live and study in London.
Chaotic but amazing and so much fun. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before. The experience of being around so many different people, different cultures and different languages is just amazing – it is something I didn’t experience at all at home. I grew up in a very monocultural, small, conservative place and London is the complete opposite of that. I love being able to be around new ideas and new people from all over the world and I am learning more about other places. I would never have had the experiences I have if I didn’t live in London.
How do you think the system of learning/researching at UCL differs from that in your own country?
In the USA there is so much more contact time. When I tell my friends from home that after the Easter break we don’t have classes, it is just exam term, they don’t understand the concept. In the USA they have mid-quarter tests and quarter tests – they have all of these exams to constantly check their learning but here you are responsible for your own learning. I really like being in charge of my own learning – it feels more adult to me.
What do you think about UCL’s academic facilities?
I really like the facilities at the IOE. They have recently opened some new study spaces and they are really nice. They have good study spaces but also good social spaces like the pop-up student bar. It is a great place to have your degree located because everything is in one place, I have all my lectures and seminars in the IOE building, but it is also so close to the main campus.
What do you do when you’re not studying?
I tend to hang out with friends or I do a lot of meditation. I also like to write. I have had a few different part time jobs as well.
What was it like living in UCL accommodation?
In my very first year I lived in Frances Gardner House, which is very near to Russell Square and King’s Cross so it was an incredible location. It was really good for me to live with people that were coming to UCL for the first time too and be in this huge new place with people that were experiencing the same thing as me. And my room was really nice – I loved it!