I originally studied a MEng Electronic Engineering degree and worked for three years as a software engineer. I chose electronics and computing partly out of interest but more so because it was something I was good at. I did not have a lot confidence in my academic ability at school, particularly around any topics which relied on reading and writing. I only discovered that this was due to dyslexia when I was 19 at university. My interest in psychology developed in part through my own personal therapy at university, as well as through general reading. At the same time I was realising that engineering was not for me.
After exploring various routes in to psychology, I decided I wanted to work towards becoming a counselling psychologist. Having studied engineering originally I needed to do a psychology conversion course, which offered an initial taste of whether this was the right route for me. Having found the list of courses on the BPS website, the MEd Psychology of Education course at the University of Bristol appealed the most. This was largely because of its reputation as a good university and what I had heard about Bristol as a city. After a visit there I decided that this was the place for me.
Bristol is great city, in some respects it feels very relaxed, and laid back compared to London where I had been previously living. Yet there is so much available to you and there is plenty you can get involved in. Living fairly centrally, everything was within walking distance, which is another big change from London.
I remember failing the entrance exam at Bristol very clearly. I’d worked hard on reading all the psychology topics on the reading list, but it showed the initial gulf between studying engineering and moving into psychology – for example, I had no idea you needed to reference authors in an essay. I was not used to failing, having done well in my engineering degree. The significance for me is that gaps in knowledge and ability are surmountable. The shift from my initial failure to where I find myself now stands out for me.
Moving from engineering to psychology was a huge jump for me, not only because of the change in subject, but also because of its emphasis on reading and writing. I had rarely written essays up to this point and it was quite a daunting prospect as the first assignments were asked of me. The course tutors were very supportive and the offer of feedback before submitting essays was very helpful in my learning process.
I have always responded well when people have seen potential in me, and I felt that I was shown this by all the tutors on the course. This was particularly so with Sara Meadows, who supervised me on my research dissertation. She was helpful and supportive throughout the process and it was a real boost to hear her suggest that I publish my work. Although I did not publish my work, the comment remained with me and has contributed to my change in attitude towards research. To add to this, I am now at the stage of submitting my doctoral research for publishing.
I managed to do well on the Master’s, which drove on my aspirations to study at doctoral level. I have since gained my doctorate in counselling psychology, and have been working within the NHS for the past two years. It’s a very demanding career and I am still getting to grips with it, yet I am clear that it was the right choice to make as it is also thoroughly rewarding. Studying at Bristol was my first step on this path and it was very positive one, which sparked my interest enough to make a significant change in my career.
I currently work as a psychology in a diabetes service, which involves working with a number of people who want to improve their weight management. This has sparked an interest for me and I would like to develop this further. I am scheduled to present this at one, possibly two, conferences this year. I would like to develop this group and my work within this field further, which could develop in to offering training and possibly conducting research.
My proudest achievement since my studies would first of all be becoming a father. But if we’re focusing on academia then it would have to be gaining my doctorate. It was the hardest thing I have done in my life. It tested me both personally and professionally, and I am proud to have come out the other side with my certificate in hand.
I would recommend to a young student getting involved as much as possible. I don’t think I did that in my first degree, whereas I was given a second opportunity at Bristol. I was very much more interested in the topic I was studying so I could dedicate my time to study. Yet, the university offers so much more. I tried Lacrosse for the first time – playing for their men’s and mixed team as well as touring with them in Dublin, Ireland. I also joined a football team in the University’s league on the Downs. There is such a variety of things to get involved in you just need to have a good look and be willing to give it a try.