For some people, having a structured career plan established from a relatively young age is the norm. For me, this wasn’t the case at all. Going into my A-Levels, I chose subjects on the basis of what I enjoyed rather than selecting a combination which merely ‘suited each other well’: in the end settling on English Literature, History and Psychology. Although still unsure about which, if any, I wanted to pursue at undergraduate level, I expected that at some point across the two-year courses the answer would become clear: which is exactly what happened.
Psychology engaged me in a way previous subjects had failed to do. Whilst my initial interest was grounded in having personal experience with mental illness, it grew to become much more than this once the sheer scope and complexity of the field became apparent to me. Whilst everyone around me seemingly loved to ask “so, can you read my mind?”, I knew from the onset that the subject had significance far beyond such a stereotype. From how we remember, to how we formulate emotions; from how we develop relationships, to how we interact with wider social groups: it seemed clear to me that there was no one area of study that could be more relevant to our existence as human beings.
Admittedly, Bath wasn’t my first-choice university and deciding to apply was a last-minute decision. As an overall high academic achiever with a strong set of GCSE results, intertwined with a persistent need to be ‘the best’, I had my sights set on going to Oxford University. In all honestly, as much as I pretend it didn’t consume me, it was the only distinct plan I’d ever had in my future. Regardless of the course, it was always a given that one of my choices would be for Oxford. Learning to deal with post-interview rejection was difficult: it is so easy to slip into the toxic mindset of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Yet, once I made peace with the understanding that the place didn’t suit me rather than me not suiting the place, I realised that where-ever I ended up, it was in my hands to shape the experience into whatever I wanted it to be. Bath offered things that Oxford didn’t, and the degree was much more applicable to my future career ideas: being blinded by the latter’s prestige and status almost cost me the path I am currently on and in retrospect I fully believe that everything happened for a reason.
Starting my undergraduate degree in 2020 has been strange to say the least. Moving away from home was always going to be a daunting prospect: this year more so with the added uncertainty of COVID. Yet despite the course adjustments and online learning, I already have a much clearer idea of my future career ambitions. The field of health psychology is something I still know relatively little about and yet, given that it offers a much faster route into the workplace than clinical psychology does, I am considering choosing modules in future years to complement it. Health psychology arguably offers more flexibility in its methods and practices than the realm of clinical can: meaning a career in the field would be, ideally, less restrictive and more open to individual practitioner input. To become accredited as a health psychologist, a relevant masters course is needed and possibly a doctorate level qualification. The prospect of this further study doesn’t alarm me: rather, I am excited to dedicate my time to one area and develop this throughout my career- wherever this will take me.
Having chosen not to complete a placement year as part of my course, I will need to acquire substantial experience elsewhere. With this in mind, I’ve made plans to work at a care home next summer to enhance my familiarity with clinical/healthcare environments and also hope to gain some involvement in current research regarding smoking addiction and the interventions health psychologists can make.
With all this said, I am still young and realise that over the course of the next three years my ambitions could completely shift. Especially for my first year, I am aiming to engage with every possible opportunity so that, when I do need to finalise my post-graduate plans, I can do so knowing I’ve explored every avenue of the field beforehand.