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Zafirah graduated with a Psychology degree in 2019 and successfully applied for the Clinical Doctorate in Psychology in the Autumn of her final year. This is her story.


Tell me a little bit about yourself

I am an international student from Malaysia and graduated from the psychology with placement course in June 2019. I completed my placement year at the National Inpatient Unit for Deaf Children and Adolescents which I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from. Whilst at university, I also participated in various societies, activities and volunteer roles (e.g. PAL leader, Think volunteer, TEDx committee, sports societies, homeless shelter volunteer, Alzheimer's Society Friendly Face volunteer, etc.), and worked part-time as a support worker. I am currently in my first year of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Course at Salomons.

How have the first few months been for you on the clinical doctorate?

Honestly, the first few months have been a little crazy and quite challenging. However, as cliché as it sounds, I have been enjoying every bit of it and have grown so much as a clinical psychologist. The teaching and placement have been intense at times, but it is delivered extremely well and is very well integrated, so I'm able to apply the teaching to my clinical work on placements effectively. I have already learned so much from the course and so I’m definitely looking forward to see what the rest of the course brings. Although clinical work can feel daunting sometimes, I always feel supported by the university and my placement supervisors. So, even when I feel overwhelmed or out of my depth, there are always support systems surrounding me. Also, getting stuck in clinical work from the start and to an extent getting thrown into the deep end doesn't really give you much time to be anxious and apprehensive, which has been personally quite beneficial for me.

Salomons also really emphasises reflective practice which has played an essential role in helping me grow as a psychologist. I'm aware that not all the doctorate courses prioritise this, so it is really important to research the various courses in as much detail as you can before applying so you know which ones would fit in with your values and personality. We have also had various meetings, reflections, and discussions regarding racism in the profession as a result of what happened at the Liverpool GTiCP Conference.  Although these discussions can be quite difficult to have, I think it has been a great opportunity for all trainees to improve our understanding and practice as our clients come from diverse backgrounds. So I think students planning to apply for the doctorate courses should be prepared and be open-minded to potentially have difficult conversations with other trainees, staff, and supervisors.

As an international student, how did that affect your application to the clinical doctorate? What did you find particularly challenging?

As I applied during my final undergraduate year as an international student, I only had the option to apply to three universities. I was lucky that I was keen on at least two of the courses and chose to apply for it. However, if you weren’t keen on any of the three, your options will be even more limited, and you may have to wait until after graduating to apply.

The most challenging thing for me is the financial commitment. International students (non-EU) can’t apply for the NHS-funded courses and will have to self-fund the whole three years. as international students probably already know, the doctorate is very expensive and you do not get any financial support or reimbursement during the course. Hence, it may unfortunately not be affordable to everyone. I have decided to work part-time on weekends alongside my doctorate for the time-being. However, I would not recommend this and would possibly only do this in my first year. Students wishing to apply for the self-funded places should definitely consider the financial requirements and weigh-in all your options thoroughly before applying.

What do you hope to do after your doctorate?

I hope to go home to Malaysia and work with other clinical psychologists/professionals to improve our mental health services. I think there is so much that can be learned from the NHS and applied to improve services in other countries. The services back home are currently quite limited and inaccessible, so I would really like to change this in the future.

What application tips do you have for students considering applying to a clinical doctorate?

- Research the courses in as much detail as you can and apply to the ones that match you. Don't pick courses based on their name and reputation.

- Spend time to reflect on why you want to be a clinical psychologist, the experiences you have had, what you have learned from your experiences and whether this is the right time to join the course.

- Be genuine and don't exaggerate your experiences in the interview (they will catch you out).

- Keep up to date with current issues and hot topics within the profession.

Any other comments?

I wish all students the very best of luck! 🙂 If Bath students have any further questions, please contact Aste Dahl - A.Dahl@bath.ac.uk for my email address.

The Careers Service thanks Zafirah for this excellent blog entry! 
For further Clinical Psychology blog resources also have a look at Application Tips for the Clinical Psychology Doctorate and Alumni interview: Assistant Psychologist and International Student.

Posted in: Advice, Alumni Case Study - Humanities and Social Sciences, Alumni Case Study - International, Career Choice

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