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Thinking about studying an online course? University of Cambridge and University of Liverpool graduate Bee Garrs tells her story and what it’s like to study a qualification online instead of on a campus.
What Did You Study?
I hold a LLB (Hons) in Law (University of Cambridge) and an MSc Applied Psychology (University of Liverpool Online). I studied psychometrics at the University of Cambridge and I am a BPS accredited Psychometrist. Most recently I completed a course in Psychological First Aid with John Hopkins University. I am now going to further my studies in CBT as well as life coaching.
Have You Always Been Interested in Psychology?
My entire career has been focused on helping people and I have always been fascinated by human behaviour. I wanted to add to my experience by studying Psychology so that I would have a strong theoretical background. I chose to study because helping others to make sense of their lives and their careers helps me to make sense of my own which I find extremely fulfilling.
What's The Best Thing About Studying Psychology?
Collaborating with international students was the best thing. Studying with people from all over the world helped me broaden my horizons and change my perceptions about human behaviour.
It also helped me to learn and understand behaviour and perception of behaviour from other cultures. It helped me gain a greater understanding of psychology in a global context. This has helped me immeasurably as a British counsellor in South Africa where there are many different cultures.
What Advice Would You Give to Any Wannabe Psychology Students?
Never be afraid to ask questions of your instructors and keep asking until you understand what you need to do.
What Were the Challenges of Studying Online and How Did You Overcome Them?
When I started the course we didn’t have the ‘LENS platform’. LENS is more than just a student platform, it creates communities where you can chat and have discussions with your peers outside of the classroom environment to discuss things that you may be struggling with or you just want to talk about – both personal and professional.
This is an important part of student life and when I started, I overcame this by making personal contact with some of my colleagues so that we were able to chat over WhatsApp and Skype to encourage each other. If I were to complete the course again, I would still use the same method but I’d also make use of the chat rooms and communities on the LENS platform.
What Skills Do You Need in Order to Study Online?
Motivation, dedication and strong self-discipline. You also need to be able to have objectivity and consider how something you might write or say may be perceived by other students so you don’t offend anyone.
Have Any of These Skills Transferred Into Your Career?
I have been self-employed for the majority of my career so I have always needed strong self-discipline. As a coach, you need to be motivated and dedicated, otherwise it’s difficult to motivate clients to take the steps they need to in order to achieve their goals. Similarly with coaching you need to consider the way in which you are saying things to a client and you need to remain objective.
Talk Us Through Your South Africa Research Project
My research project was looking at the efficacy of a health education tool in increasing mental health literacy about depression among the illiterate population in South Africa.
I chose to research this subject because depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in South Africa; however the official adult literacy levels are estimated at 88.7% according to the United Nations Development Programme. The tool I used was a “speaking book” which is an audio-visual book designed as a culturally and linguistically appropriate tool to increase mental health literacy and address barriers to seek help. Whilst previous studies had looked at the efficacy of the tool, they had serious methodical limitations and there was a need for a more rigorous investigation of the effectiveness of the book.
What Was It Like Learning About This Topic Through an Online Platform?
Through the online library I had great access to other articles which were relevant to my topic, not only from South Africa but from other countries in which similar studies were conducted.
It was also very beneficial having the Research Training Methods course which helped me to write my project proposal. It was helpful to have my colleagues read my topic ideas and give suggestions as it helped me to identify potential weaknesses in my research design and it also encouraged me to know that other people in my class thought that my proposal was a good one.
I also had a brilliant Dissertation Advisor who provided me with endless help and guidance. I also had support from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). Without my DA and SADAG, it would have been very difficult for me to complete my project successfully.
How Do You See Yourself Using Your Online Degree in the Future?
My degree has already been useful in my present career as an executive career and personal branding coach. It has enabled me to understand how individuals approach change and it has helped me to identify how ready my client is for change.
In the future, I intend to continue my training and studying to become a fully qualified CBT Therapist.
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