Gabrielle Ng, Psychology MSci
1. Why did you decide to study your programme?
I picked Psychology because it incorporated both science – the field of academia that I have always felt most drawn to and had the most interest in, and the study of human behaviour. Having studied Psychology in IB, I realised that studying the behaviours of others through scientific methodology allowed reliable and accurate findings to be gathered. More importantly, these findings could then be applied to a vast range of social contexts and settings. The findings that are gathered through psychological research are crucial not only to understand and shed light on our implicit cognitive processes e.g. how we make hundreds of decisions each day that often have important consequences but also have important social implications through understanding human behaviour e.g. what are the implicit biases we hold about others?
Another reason why I chose to study Psychology is because I really enjoyed Biology in high school and liked that psychology had a biological aspect to it that I could further pursue in university. I enjoyed learning about how our genes naturally predispose us to certain conditions as well as the different areas of the brain responsible for certain core emotions and the release of hormones relating to them. I liked that psychology would still allow me to pursue other academic interest areas like biology with the additional aspect of understanding how these directly lead to behavioural outcomes that we as humans show in everyday contexts.
As someone who’s considering pursuing a career in clinical psychology, I enjoy that my programme allows for me to take a placement year in my 4th year, hopefully in a clinical setting. This would provide me with a better understanding of this career path and expose me to the working environment that I can expect.
I also think that this programme exposes me to so many areas of psychology that I even if I don’t decide to clinical psychology, there will be other careers that I will be interested to pursue. Psychology is a broad discipline where so much of the skills and knowledge you learn can be transferable to various professions. I enjoy this flexibility and being able to have many doors open for me to choose from after I graduate.
2. Why did you apply to study at UCL?
I decided to apply to and ultimately accepted my offer to UCL because of the particular MSci programme that they offered. After completing 3 years of the bachelor’s degree, the 4th year is an opportunity for me to do a placement either in a research or applied setting where I will collect data for my thesis alongside taking Master's-level modules. I feel that this is an invaluable experience for me to familiarise myself with the potential career prospects waiting for me once I graduate and also gain a better understanding of where my interests lie. I know that the quality of placements offered to me will be of a great standard and I really wanted to use this opportunity to hopefully gain a clinical placement that are usually incredibly hard to come by without the qualifications of a clinical psychologist.
Whilst I applied to other universities with a similar placement year, UCL was the only university that offered me Master's-level modules that would allow me to graduate with a masters after 4 years. I feel that this made it a better investment in terms of school fees and time. It didn’t hurt that UCL is a high ranked university, which made it stand out to me as well.
However, I also picked UCL for non-academic reasons. What drew me to UCL was also the incredible volunteering opportunities it offered. There were so many societies which provided volunteering targeting different sectors e.g. children, environment, homelessness that I knew I would have no trouble finding meaningful volunteering work to do during university – something that was incredibly important to me. The overseas volunteering opportunities in which UCL collaborates with external NGO’s really stood out to me and I actually participated in one to Fiji at the end of my first year at UCL.
I also love that UCL has so many clubs and societies for you to pursue your non-academic interests. I immediately joined the dance society in my first year and made some of my closest friends in university through dancing with them in various performances. But besides that, there are so many cool societies that really cater to everyone’s interests. I’m also in the baking society and the climate action society as these are some of the things I have interest in as well. The best thing is that some societies are low commitment and can be adapted to your schedule.
As an international student, I like that UCL has so many students from so many countries which makes me feel less like an outsider and also allows me to meet so many people from so many different countries with such diverse cultures.
Finally, studying in London means that you never run out of things to do or new places to explore. I love that day to day life can be so different depending on what you want to do, be it visit a museum or take a really long walk to Regent’s Park. Although I was initially worried that studying at UCL would mean I would lose out on a university campus experience, I realised that UCL is one of the few universities in London that does have a central campus. I like that I can walk around and feel immersed with other students and get the campus-feel despite being in London.
3. What do you find inspiring at UCL and why?
I think being in such a global university that gathers so many people, from such diverse cultures, countries and at such different chapters of your life has allowed me to meet so many people and through the process gain different perspectives on life.
Coming from a small country, I didn’t realise how different people’s outlook and perspectives on life could be and through my daily interactions with others, I’ve been able to gain a new appreciation for the differences held by people and have really good discussions about our differing views. I also get to meet people from countries that I’ve never been to, learn more about their culture, food and history. I know that these aren’t guaranteed opportunities that students in other universities get and is something I find incredibly invaluable.
Being at UCL has allowed me to meet really intelligent people and learn so much from their analytical style, how they deal with problems and how they view life. This constantly inspires me to become a better version of myself, to never get too comfortable with how I view things and to strive to always take others' views and experiences seriously. It also means that I’ve been able to have really interesting conversations with people on such a broad range of topics and learn more from them about their views and opinions.
I think UCL also provides many resources that you can utilise to your advantage, be it pursuing your non-academic interests or meeting leading figures in your field of study.
4. What do you enjoy most about your degree programme?
I really enjoy how broad the Psychology MSci degree is. Going into this degree my view on what psychology was and what I would study was very narrow and limited. However, in my two years, I’ve studied so many things that I never thought I would study. From studying why we see in three dimensions, to how we learn second languages, I really enjoy getting to learn such a broad spectrum of topics that have such relevance in today’s world and everyday context.
Though some content has proven to be challenging, especially when it’s not in an area of particular interest to me, I do enjoy being placed outside of my comfort zone slightly to gain new knowledge that I would otherwise not have gained. It also means that we get exposed to all the applied areas of psychology which is helpful when thinking about career options after we graduate. There are countless sectors that we can enter which our degree exposes us to such as policy making, education, business and consulting or mental health.
The Psychology degree at UCL is also very research intensive but the course has been structured in a way that guides new students through it. From learning about the research process in 1st year, to coming up with a research question, designing experiments, collecting data and analysing it in 2nd year, I think that I’ve learnt so much about the research process. It wasn’t something that I initially had a lot of confidence or found enjoyment in but now I really look forward to coming up with experiments and writing up reports. I think that it really gives you the opportunity to see how scientific research is conducted in this field which not only prepares you for 3rd year when you write a dissertation but also gives you an idea of whether research might be a potential career option for you. These lab reports also allow us to apply our knowledge from the statistics module that we take, where you learn about different statistical tests and how to code. Coding was such a daunting part of this module, I really wasn’t looking forward to it because I’m not very confident in maths and computer science but I actually enjoyed the process of coding the data I gathered and seeing how this answered my research question. Although coding is something I still struggle with, I do like how its applied in my research process and it’s really satisfying when you finally run the code successfully. It’s also a nice break from all the essay writing we have to do in this degree!
5. What is your fondest memory of your time at UCL?
My fondest memory of UCL would definitely be performing on the Bloomsbury Theatre stage as part of the annual show put up by UCL Dance Society. As a member of Dance Society, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my passion outside of my degree through numerous performances. However, being able to perform on a professional stage in a professional theatre has been an unforgettable experience. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to do this both in 1st and 2nd year and definitely is the highlight of my year in dance society. Through this show, I’ve been able to meet some of my closest friends in university and share the stage with them. Spending months working towards such a big project, whilst juggling the demands of a degree really brings you closer as a team and makes the process so much easier. Dancing on the stage for 3 nights in a row with these people makes any stress we experienced so worth it and are memories that I know I will treasure forever. It’s so much fun being able to journey with other dancers and learn from them through weekly practices and you do feel such a sense of purpose working towards a show so big. It is through this that I’ve bonded with other dancers and really established a sense of community within university.
6. What do you find interesting about your field of study and what inspires you?
Although I have yet to decide on a particular area in the field of psychology to hone in on, I really enjoy how psychology can be applied to many social contexts and how its findings are so relevant in society today.
I have always enjoyed the fact that psychology relies on a rigorous scientific method and yet findings gathered can be translated into user-friendly, real-world applications that directly benefit individuals. Unlike other sciences that may not serve to impact individuals' daily lives at face value, findings from psychology can often be understood and applied in beneficial ways. For example, learning about the implicit biases we hold can help us maintain an awareness that may ultimately prevent basing decisions off these biases.
The broadness of my field of study also means that so much research is being conducted on such different areas that have such direct implications on people’s lives. For example, findings from psychology and language can influence the way language is taught in schools. It also means that there is a broad range of research methods employed by psychologists when collecting data, be it qualitative methods such as interviews or quantitative methods such as brain scans.
I find it inspiring that psychology as a subject gathers so many individuals with such different interests that can be incredibly unique and specific from a tiny specific area of the brain to understanding how we see in 3 dimensions. I also find it inspiring that in recent years, the field of behaviour change within psychology has grown. Through using psychologically informed research, there is great potential for governments and countries to alter the behaviours of individuals in ways that can benefit their health or that is advantageous for the environment. I think this is incredibly invaluable in changing people’s lives.
7. Do you think studying at UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences is a good investment?
Definitely. I think that the quality of teaching offered at UCL under this faculty is a worthy investment because you really get to learn from lecturers who are leading academics in the field, conducting cutting-edge research that is directly relevant to what you’re studying in lectures. This makes what you’re learning so much more engaging because the professors that are teaching you are truly passionate about the subject area and have so much knowledge that they are willing and happy to teach you.
I was worried that learning from researchers would mean they would be disinterested in answering questions and wouldn’t be good teachers but I’ve found that the majority of my lecturers have been incredibly helpful with clearing up doubts in content and are happy to re-explain complex concepts. The fact that the Faculty of Brain Sciences comprises of so many active researchers also means that you get the opportunity to participate in their research and even assist in their labs with their experiments, data collection and analysis. These are all incredible opportunities that I think makes this faculty and UCL stand out.
By second year, you get the chance to run your own experiments under the supervision of a lab researcher and write up a lab report on the data you collect. Furthermore, UCL careers works with the faculty to offer great support to students in terms of the career opportunities. They often organize symposiums and Q&A sessions with top figures in the field for you to learn from and they also keep you updated with job vacancies. I feel there are so many resources that you can use from the faculty to make your university experience better.
8. What are your plans once you've completed your current programme of study?
At the moment I don’t know what exactly I would like to do career-wise. I’ve always been interested in going into clinical psychology and am trying to gear my selected modules towards that. I am on the MSci programme (integrated Master's) which offers me a placement year in 4th year and I’m hoping to secure a clinical placement in that year. Hopefully this can give me a better idea of whether clinical psychology is the career I wish to pursue as I will gain a better understanding of the working environment and the nature of the job. If it is, I hope to apply to be a psychological assistant before applying for the Doctorate of Clinical Psychology.
However, in second year I’ve also realised that I have an interest in how psychology applies to the field of behaviour change and have been thinking about going to more health and public policy. I’m hoping that 3rd year will give me a better understanding of where my interests lie with regards to these two career pathways.
It’s nerve racking that I don’t know what I want to do yet but the thing with this degree is that it’s so broad that there are many doors open in terms of career so I don’t want to close any of them yet.
9. What would be your advice for current students?
I would say don’t put pressure on yourself! In all aspects of university, be it in making new friends, getting the hang of a really hard module (lab reports or coding) or just settling into a new city/country/living situation, these things all take time to adjust and adapt to. I feel there’s unspoken pressure if figure everything out in your first year but that’s not the route for everyone and so don’t feel like you’re falling behind or missing out! It just adds additional stress and anxiety to your life which you definitely don’t need.
I would say in terms of academics, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions if you feel lost and confused. There are plenty of people who are willing to help you if you just ask! Also remember that university can be daunting in terms of academic expectations and the jump from high school so just take time to figure out a system that works best for you.
It’ll be helpful so that you’re able to time manage and balance a healthy lifestyle that incorporates all aspects of university, not just academics. Remember that UCL offers so much more than just your degree, there are so many societies that cater to the interests of so many different people so it’s really worth spending time thinking about the societies you want to join and making use of what there is to offer.
I would say also don’t stress if you don’t know what you want to do with your degree yet! Like I said before, psychology is such a broad degree and you’re going to learn so much in your 3/4 years that even if you know what you want to do going into 1st year, you may find that your interests shift or change completely. Just take your time to figure out what it is you like to study and don’t worry about having a full proof plan in terms of career when you graduate. I’ve spoken to so many people who have left university going to into such diverse sectors that often had nothing to do with their interests when they first entered university. Part of the process of university is learning more about yourself, what you enjoy and what you don’t so I would say don’t overlook this :)