Have you started thinking about your placement already, and wondering whether to do it at a university or rather a corporate setting? Continue reading to find out about my thought process when applying for a placement at a university.
The time might have already come for you to start thinking about what type of placement you want to do. For Psychology students, there are two main routes - either a more corporate (HR, marketing, data analysis) placement or rather a research placement. If you are quite confident about what you want to do after university and/or have clear ideas about what company/sector you want to work for, great! Otherwise, if like me you are still undecided by the start of second year of what you want to do, I recommend using your placement year to explore a route you are curious about and is a bit different to what you have been doing until now. For example, the internships I had done in Human Resources and developmental psychology centered around more administrative, office tasks.
When I started looking at options for placements, I decided on a research placement because I had never done this before and knew that doing academic research work during my third year of university would greatly complement my final year at Bath, specifically when thinking about dissertation topics. Furthermore, it would be a good moment to find out whether research is the course I wanted to pursue after university, as a year in academia at a renowned institution, such as New York University (NYU), would be hard to come by otherwise.
By the sounds of it, if it isn’t something you have been dreaming about, a research placement might not sound that interesting. 8+ months working as a research assistant may sound foreign and the tasks in the job description might not be that descriptive. I have attached below my monthly task sheet for February that I add to daily as an example of short- and long-term tasks. As you can see, it is a mix of coding, follow-up work (post-visit work), recruitment emails, preparing presentations and making/sending participant materials. Some days I could take off, which I took advantage of going to Montreal to visit a friend, and other days were very busy as I was assigned tasks on a rolling basis.
I wanted to be challenged and question my path in my placement year, and NYU was the right place to come to do that thanks to it being a university setting. Keep reading to find out why!
Most of us will only have been at school or university our whole life. Because of this, interacting with people from other universities gives a good insight into how other students of our age are tackling their futures. One thing that stood out to me in the American system is the focus and pressure on summer internships and jobs, with almost all students working on weekends and having internships lined up 2 summers in advance. In addition, as the legal age here is 21, socializing is centered around activities such as arts & crafts, cooking, restaurants etc. rather than nights out which may be more common around Europe. I have also noticed a large focus on increasing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversations in students’ everyday life (click on the following link to read my blog about DEI at NYU), combined with regular student-requested professional development sessions.
Another big advantage to placement at a university is that you are much more used to reading papers, and also tend to understand them a lot better as you are involved with pre and post research work yourself. I feel much more knowledgeable now about the whole research process, starting from the beginning with grants and at the end with published work. I can better grasp why scientists chose a certain methodology or mentioned a certain aspect of their sample as a limitation, because I see this in our research. I am looking forward to starting final year and integrating my research expertise with papers I read to reach more accurate and detailed conclusions.
Specific to NYU, I inadvertently realized that I could take advantage of all the opportunities it offers for students (in terms of clubs, societies, activities, talks, museums, Broadway shows etc) thanks to the budget of the university, without paying the tuition which makes it possible. For example, NYU has extremely subsidized Broadway and museum tickets which makes most of these free. I have enjoyed taking in the cultural scene of New York for a very reduced price. Further, NYU also organizes events for international students, for example Global Buddies which runs every 2 weeks with activities such as bowling, game nights, or paint & sip. Alternative Breaks with NYU was another of my highlights - this is a university-organized and student-led spring break centered around volunteering, and I had the great opportunity of carrying out community and environmental sustainability projects in Costa Rica. The trip was extremely well organized and the perfect balance of tourism and service work.
Living in New York has also been an incredible way to grow and mature emotionally and academically as an individual. Many of the big steps here I have had to take alone, and this has taught me how to connect well with other people, maintain friendships and seek out help when I need it. This has been made easier by the fact that the placement was at a university and at work I am constantly surrounded by people between 20-26 years of age so I still feel somewhat like a student in a friendly, welcoming environment.
In summary, you may feel as though your placement year will make-or-break your future or will be a big contributor to your career path. While it can certainly help, what matters most is the skills that you get out of the placement, no matter whether it is in a research, corporate or any other setting. Feeling like you are learning something and growing is the most important aspect, and this is why I would highly recommend placement at a university if you are considering it. You will still have the safety of feeling like a student, you will be doing hands-on research that will help you understand Google Scholar papers for the rest of your life, and outside of work you will be able to meet people your age in an organic way.
Best of luck, and please let me know if you have any questions - I am happy to answer.