Studying Educational Psychology as an International Student
My life as a university student is not typically like any other. As an international student flying alone across continents, fifteen hours away from home, during the peak of a global pandemic – it is safe to say that my initial experience was just as dramatic as most people would imagine. There are certain things that I wish I knew before beginning university, and there are definitely things that I specifically enjoyed studying in my course – pandemic or not. I wish to share my experiences in hopes that those who share similar backgrounds as I do could benefit from it.
My name is Amanda Azman and I am a final year BSc Educational Psychology student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Upon joining university in my first year, I discovered that I was the only Southeast Asian in my predominantly white and female course. Initially, I felt consumed by an inferiority complex over being physically and culturally different that I became hypervigilant over the way I talked, acted and even the way I dressed. The perception went on until my final year of university when I realised that; none of that matters. Instead of forming deeper bonds with all the close friendships I now have, I spent all those times from my first year worrying over my differences and I wish I had told myself sooner that it was okay to be different, as basic as it sounds. I have learned to appreciate that every individual is unique in ways that they can contribute to social environments. So instead of constantly grappling to conform, I allow myself to embrace.
The second thing I wish I knew in the beginning of university, is that despite my peers saying “your first year doesn’t count” (literally, because only your second and third year accounts for the final grade in Educational Psychology), it technically does. At that point of time, I took advantage of the fact that my first year results were irrelevant. Currently, I am in the middle of my postgraduate applications and realised that I have shot myself in the foot. Universities require your academic transcript throughout your undergraduate degree. Hence, my advice is, if you a) do not have a set career pathway in mind, or b) have a target university for your postgraduate, there is no harm in maintaining your academic excellence. Besides, being on track with your academic progress in your first year helps a lot for the years to come.
As an Educational Psychology student, what I specifically like about my course is that there was a focus on psychology and education in the beginning of first year which provided me with sufficient foundation. The two concepts were then merged in the second and third year. From exploring macro-level key issues in education and research issues in psychology/education in my first year, I have now learned micro-level preventions and interventions in schools in my final year. What I find most fascinating is that due to the broad area of educational psychology, every student has a choice to focus on a particular area of interest. For example, my peers and I have focused on children with special needs, mental health, children of low socioeconomic status and other risk factors. Having the liberty to explore your own focus areas and applying that knowledge to your academic work makes learning much more enjoyable, on top of the sociable environment at the University of Manchester.
Written by Amanda Azman