All of us are on our own psychology journeys and all of them are very different. In this psychology podcast episode, we explore my own psychology journey in the past, how it’s impacted me now and what my hopes for the futures are. If you want to understand more about me, the life of a psychology student and how psychology works, you’ll enjoy this podcast episode for sure.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by my Direct Store at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley and buying directly from authors just helps to support them better because they get more of the money instead of the larger retailers taking a large cut away from authors.
Hope. Wonder. Passion. My Psychology Journey.
My Psychology Journey Before University
So, it might come as a surprise for you to know that I did not want to do psychology before I went to university. Well, to be honest, I never intended to do psychology. I never wanted to. I didn't think there was a job at the end of it and I thought psychology was profiling, which now looking back absolutely horrifies me. But again though, this is why in my Criminal Profiling book, I do actually focus on that aspect a little bit because everyone does think psychology is profiling and all of that absolute rubbish.
So, it's something that we need to be kind of ourselves on because even though that's such a myth, it's okay to believe in myths as long as we find the truth later on and as long as we realize that they are myths.
My psychology journey actually started in sixth form, which in the UK is the 16 to 18 year old education system. And normally, you would go to a sixth form or college. So, college to oversimplify it, is where you do more vocational courses but sixth form is where you typically do A levels, which are the more academic subjects. But in the UK, increasingly, the International Baccalaureate, it has become really popular. So, what I did at my school was the International Baccalaureate careers-related program, which meant I had to do two IB subjects and two BTEC. So two vocational subjects. And this was actually really interesting.
I did geography and psychology for my IB subjects. And then I did travel and tourism, and business studies for my BTEC. All of them absolutely great courses and I loved them all.
However, the problem with chemistry that I found was that yes, I was getting the grades. Yes, I could get the grades if I revised, but I didn't feel like I was understanding it. It just didn't really mesh for me with the topic. And it was all really quite advanced stuff, which I didn't have a problem with. My grades didn't have a problem with it, but I just wanted something that I feel like I understood intrinsically and that I was really good at.
At the time my form tutor and a bunch of my friends that were in the psychology classroom. Some of my friends are learning about psychology and they were talking about it. My form tutor, Mrs. Shepley, absolutely wonderful woman, who I owe so much to, she was the psychology teacher. So, the next day I asked her, "Could I join psychology?" She said yes. She was really pleased that I was considering it and she had absolutely no problem with it.
The next day, I spoke to the chemistry teacher, she was fine about me dropping out, not in the horrible sense because she realized that it's not for everyone. And even she realized this is really quite advanced stuff. It's more advanced than the A level was at the time. And even she was having to think about, right, how do I break this down so those 16, 17-year-olds understand this. So it was tough and even she acknowledged that.
So, then I started psychology three months after everyone else. But the good thing about that was that at least according to other people, I was understanding it more. I was asking more questions and I was basically really adding it to the classroom because for the past three months, it had been sort of dead, really difficult. It wasn't easy to understand for a lot of other people. But I sort of came in and "I lightened things up," apparently, which was always like quite nice to hear.
Then what's happened was that over the Christmas break and I had to catch up on biological psychology, they had already covered it and that kicked off my psychology journey.
And I honestly think it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Well, in fact, I know it is the best decision of my life to change from chemistry to psychology. Because psychology is how I met all of you wonderful people.
And it gave me a lot of hope, passion, and opportunity.
Applying For University Psychology Degree
One of the things I absolutely love about psychology is that you cannot get a job in it unless you have a degree and a master's degree at the bare minimum. That was my selling point because I know I'm gonna sound harsh, I know I'm gonna sound horrible, but I think that there are so many degrees that you can go to university and do, and yes it gives you a degree qualification and it gives you tons of transferable skills which are brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but there isn't a job at the end of it. Or to be honest, it doesn't give you anything unique.
Personally, I think psychology does give you that uniqueness because if you go for a job, you are only competing against other graduates, which is brilliant and it's always nice. It doesn't mean getting the job's gonna be any easier but at least it's a little easier compared to if you were going to an office job, for example.
So, I knew I had to go to university and this is what makes it even funnier. So, in the UK when it comes to UCAS, which is the application system, you are allowed to take five options. So, you are allowed to apply for five different universities. I'm gonna tell you what my choices were and why and what my original plan was.
I applied for the University of Kent, so my current university, as a backup choice, I had no intention of going there.
Canterbury Christchurch. Again, I had no intention of going there for reasons I can't say on this podcast, a little touch of defamation. I wanted to go to University College of London, which is a really top-level university. I wanted to go to University of Bath and the University of Oxford.
Now, the University of Oxford was not my idea. I had looked at that before and I'm thinking no, this course didn't sound right for me. But then my psychology teacher said, "I think you could get into Oxford, I believe in you." So, I said, "All right, fine then." So, I did all of my university applications late September, early October because when you applied to Oxford, Cambridge and medicine schools in the UK, they've got a very early deadline because there's so much to it. So, I applied. I did the Oxford entry exam. I didn't get quite what I was meant to do but I wasn't that far off.
And to be honest, since I think that's the best decision I've ever made and I've never been so grateful to fail, I say, you know, in a air quotes in my life because I've heard so much stuff about Oxford because of one of my old friends, she actually went to Oxford. And she was from a middle-class background like me. And our parents don't teach us which wine goes with a particular fish and we don't want to write essays every single week and defend it like a dissertation for a PhD.
And it's like, I'm so glad I don't have that life, like the Oxford life. Yes, it would've been great in some respects but it would've been a lot harder. And that's even more important for something coming later on. University of Bath, always love that, it's a beautiful campus. And if you ever are in Bath, just go and see the university. It's brilliant and and Bath is a wonderful city.
University College London. This university might sound great but it's a city university. And the reason why I'm talking about this is that if there's any university psychology students here thinking about going to university, you've got to go to different campuses. You've got to go to different universities so you can see what is right for you.
UCL, University College London is a city university. That was not right for me especially because let's just say their accommodation is questionable, their accommodation is small. And that's all I'm gonna say because I'm pretty much pushing the boat out on how much negativity I can say on this podcast. Yeah, University College London, I was really glad I didn't go there.
And then at Christchurch, no joke, they accept everyone. So, I got an offer within a few days. University of Kent took a bit longer but I got there.
My original plan, I think, but I'm really not sure because it's been four years, was to go to UCL in London for my undergraduate, and then I go to university of Bath for my masters. And then I think go somewhere else for my PhD.
But of course back then, I didn't know that to become a clinical psychologist you don't need a PhD and in fact you shouldn't get one to some extent. But I talk about that in different places. So, that's my original plan. Thankfully, I actually ended up going to University of Kent.
Best decision of my life.
My First Year At University
I think whenever we go to university, whenever we decide to make this massive change in our lives, this is always a scary time and it's always quite nerve-wracking. We are just filled with self-doubt and we basically don't know where we stand in the world. So, University of Kent from my house, on a good day and committing to the 70 miles per hour speed limit, I can get there in about 40 minutes. So, that's the sort of distance, it's about 35 miles away. So, what that means is that it wasn't too far away from home. It was far enough away that I got to live down there in Halls for first year. And that was an interesting experience. But it meant in my second and third year, I could commute very easily.
My first year at university. I can't really remember it because it was four years ago and lots of stuff happened. But I remember when I first got to university, I had a great habit of just wanting to get away from there because even though I've been away from my parents before, I've been on scouting trips that have lasted a week. I've been to Sweden, Malta, I've given speeches and stuff like that to different people abroad. But university just seemed a bit different.
Because I remember my parents leaving my dorm, well my dorm, we're not in America, sorry Americans, in my flat, my university accommodation. And when that happened with that I felt really sad. At University, it's always that sort of awkward first few days because people are still moving in. You don't know who your flatmates are, so you really are quite unsure. So, the next day, or to be honest I should probably say that, what would you do the next day?
Normal people might want to have a walk around campus, meet people, see who else has moved in. I decided to do a 19 mile walk to Whitstable and back. So, basically I walked nine miles there. Good few miles through the sea front and then the nine miles back. The back of my knees were hurting the next day and for a few days after. And I realized, oh I think you might be trying to escape university. Thankfully, that didn't stay with me for very long because at my university accommodation, I met great people, made great friends.
And the only problem I've ever had with university accommodation, please bear in mind that mine was en suite, it was self-located, quite nice accommodation, was that people were loud.
And I mean like there were some nights I didn't go to sleep before 2:00 a.m because people were just so noisy. People were coming back from clubs and stuff like that. People were running up and down through corridors, but besides from that it was great. And you do meet some wonderful nationalities like French and Italian, like they were my two like good friends during like my first year. And even now I do keep in good contact with them. That's always nice.
In terms of psychology itself, well, I thought I'd made a massive mistake for the first few weeks. I was honestly scared that I'd ruined my life or made a big mistake because the problem with the first year at university, even though everyone listening to this probably knows this, is that it's a step down. So, they really sort of dumb it down because there were tons of people on the course who have never done psychology before. It's always about bringing everyone to the same level.
The first few weeks, and I found this in my second year and my final year, it does make you question because they're all introductory stuff. There's stuff that you already know and you are sort of thinking, oh my god, is this what it's gonna be like for the whole year? If not, what have
I done with my life? I'm stuck here now. Well you're actually not stuck there at all.
After the first few weeks, it really got sorted. We started to move on to more interesting, more advanced stuff that I didn't necessarily know. And it was just all about filling gaps in everyone's knowledge. And there's some great lecturers at the University of Kent, so I did enjoy it.
But my problem has always been group projects.
When it comes to group projects, I'm very independent. I like to get stuff done and I have a fear of group projects because there were some people on any course at whatever university, whatever stage of life you're in that don't wanna put the work in. They seriously don't. So, it is sort of down to you.
I have a massive fear of group projects. And my first group project at university confirmed this fear innately. It really did hammer home how much this fear was and it was really founded. I was really stressed. I was feeling really down and I think towards the end of the first term because of this group project. Yeah. It was always a bit harsh. I did beat myself up a bit and I did worry about it quite a lot, which turns out that it wasn't the case or I didn't need to be because we did get a good like, grade on it. But I still have a massive fear of group projects and I've always hated them.
And then the only other interesting thing for my first year, and this sort of feeding into my second year mainly, was that in March, 2020, that was my first year. That was the end of the spring term.
That was when COVID struck and that's when the world changed.
The Second Year Of The University And My Psychology Journey
As you can imagine, at the end of the first year, the early exams were online, they were just thrown up and they were very tense. It was a very tense time and I feel so sorry for the second years and the final year students. So, then what happened was my second year, and as you can imagine this was very much all online. It was a tense time because of the world we were locked down. And yeah, it just wasn't a pretty time of life.
Thankfully, that didn't really matter with me in my university experience. Of course, we still couldn't do much. And looking back, I realized that, yeah, we did miss out on a lot because it's why this year I'm actually really glad I have been down on campus even though I've not really done any societies and stuff. I did miss out on quite a lot during my second year. But equally, I'm sort of glad COVID did happen in that sense because it really did divide up the time between my first and my second year and my placement year and my final year. Because to be honest, they're really important distinctions in my academic life.
And because there's nothing really interesting that happened in my second year, I do wanna just gloss over something quickly.
My academic writing was appalling. I could not write academically to save my life. And I think that the problem with the university as a whole is that they do expect you to be able to write academically. They just expect you to know exactly what you are meant to do. And I find some university advice is so misleading. So, I don't know if you've actually got this in your countries, but in the UK we are sort of given the PEEL structure when it comes to writing essay paragraphs. So that's point, evidence, explain, link back to the question. I don't think that works for university essays because I followed it, I followed it down to the letter and I was only getting 50s in my first and my second year when it came to essays.
And I was getting worse and worse and worse when it came to essays But in my placement year, which I'll talk more about in a moment, I changed my structure. I learned how to write a good academic argument like a professional paper, and then that helped me to get the firsts that I'm thankfully getting now and touch wood still will be because I've still got quite a few assignments not back yet. I am sort of pushing the boat out on that comment. I really hope it doesn't bite to me in the backside now. So, academic writing is hard. It's really, really hard I found. So, that was a massive struggle for me.
I basically thought at the end of my second year that I was going to fail university and my psychology journey was over.
My Placement Year And How This Impacted My Psychology Journey
I fully admit, this next section of the podcast is definitely gonna be very glossed over simply because I've got an entire book coming out in the end of the year called "A Year in Psychology" that actually talks about this in a lot more depth because it talks about everything I did in my placement year, why I did it, why I thought I really needed it and why I would honestly recommend it to anyone in the world. It is amazing.
My placement year. Because it was still sort of COVID, sort of wasn't, it was in that sort of weird getting back to normal time. Oh, yeah, plus I think there was even a lockdown during my placement year. Yes, I think there was a one-month lockdown in November, December on that year. COVID, it was such a messy time. I lose track of it half the time.
What happened was that it was a remote placement at my home but it was also at the university and I was doing like literature reviews and other stuff. So if you are interested in that, I've spoke about it on the podcast before in the personal update section. But the reason why I'm talking about this is because this really did impact my psychology journey.
If this placement year didn't happen, my psychology journey would be completely different.
It would've failed. It would've been awful because my placement year gave me back my hope and it gave me back my passion for this subject. Because not only because of the topics we were looking at, but also because it taught me how to write academically, which no one else does. People that I was working with, they were really supportive and stuff. And also they never judged me which is always nice. And they realized I could write academically quite well but they just needed to give me a few tips.
And it was from reading these literature reviews and reading these academic papers, that I realized how you are actually meant to write academically. And it's like good that I now know how to do it. Because universities they just don't tell you how to do that stuff. So, it's really good that I was able to up my skills and basically this placement year, it saved me. It saved my grades. So, this year I'm doing so much better than I ever could have done if I never did this placement year.
And also the reason why I talk about opportunities quite a lot in this podcast and when it comes to placement, is because if you do a placement year, and you actually meet a great supervisor, especially at university, then it can open so many doors for you. For example, if I didn't do that placement year, I never would've been on the final year project that I'm on. I never would've met all my friends. I never would've met this great PhD student that I get on really well with. So, placement year has given me so much and it really has sort of revitalized my interest in psychology. Because even though my interest, my passion for this amazing topic never went away, I sort of thought I could never do it because my academic writing simply wasn't good enough. So, placement year, definitely, definitely do it.
My Final Year
This sort of last section actually looking at my psychology journey is sort of gonna be short because I've spoken about it all year basically. And there are some books coming and I have reflected on it in different places about different aspects of it. Like, I know "Clinical Psychology Reflections Volume 4," which is coming out next April, I know that covers some of my final year. I'm planning to do a third year survival guide. Yeah, like that sort of book. So, there's definitely a lot coming up which reflects on this a lot better than I can now.
But your final year at university can be the most amazing time of your life. I think. You can meet great people, you can get involved in great projects and it can really make you excited about the future but also sad at the same time because sad in the sense that you just completed an amazing journey through university.
And I'm honestly a shadow of my former self in the fact that I am more confident, I know how to stand my ground, I've got friends. And yeah, it's just amazing what university can do for you if you take the opportunities that come your way and if you are proactive. And this is even more true in your final year because I'm doing so many other opportunities which have deepened my learning, deepened my interest in psychology that makes me realize exactly what I want to do in the future.
It's honestly great. And so many opportunities have popped up for me just because I've been willing to actually talk about them. So, there's one that I can't talk about actually because I'm not sure if it's actually gonna happen, but when it does on the podcast I will talk about it. So, I'm so excited about it. And again, it's something I would never ever thought I would do. In fact, I've been a very vocal critic of it in various places. So, that's always interesting.
To be honest, sometimes I think I just shouldn't have opinions because they always come back biting me because then I end up doing them. So, that's always fun. And again, that is why I love university.
It's why psychology always gives me hope, wonder and curiosity. And yes, I know I'm changing these, but to be honest, these little deviations on the original title of this podcast episode, this episode took so long to actually fix up.
Take Home Messages
In this penultimate section of the episode, I just wanna say that the entire point of me doing this episode isn't just so that you know what I've been through. It's that you know that in psychology, there is so many opportunities for you. And psychology it is honestly a wonderful discipline. It's a wonderful profession. It's a wonderful degree that I just love because it covers so much.
Without psychology, humans are nothing.
As I've said before on the podcast, from a biological standpoint, we can say smoking gives you cancer but what do you do about it? Only psychology can make someone change their mind, get a healthier habit and improve their lives. Biology can't do that. Chemistry can't do it. Physics can't do that.
Psychology is in everything we do and that is why it's so important. It's arguably one of the most important disciplines in the entire world and that is why I'm so passionate about it. We can improve lives, we can help people, we can make people not want to kill themselves, well, potentially. We can do so much more than we ever thought possible and this is only because of psychology.
So, this is why I love it and this is why I'm so grateful for all of you for listening to this podcast because your interest, your passion, your comments really keeps me going and keeps me wanting to learn. And thank you. I cannot thank you guys enough. So, that's the sort of the take home message. And I was actually gonna do these in separate sections, but I'm actually not going to.
In terms of the future, my future is, I'm gonna be doing a clinical psychology masters in September, hopefully at the University of Kent. I'm really looking forward to it. I want to learn more about clinical psychology and it's gonna be a lot of fun. And the project that I'm gonna be working on will be a lot of fun too.
Working with people on depression. Well, not actually working with depressed people, but working on the cognitive angle, even though I also talk about why that's a bad thing about why academics with no clinical psychology experience are researching mental health conditions. But again, that's something coming out like next year. So yeah. So, there's a lot going on in the future. I'm really excited about it and I do want to get a part-time job or something or a volunteering position, if I work with service users directly, in fact I've actually got to start like looking at that. In fact, my original plan was to do that in April. So, anyway, though, busy times ahead.
When it comes to the future of this podcast. Well, this podcast, I love it. I just cannot give this up. I really can't because I love it so much. You guys honestly keep me learning. I see the statistics, I see the watch numbers and I look at these subscribing numbers on YouTube and I'm pleased that this is growing.
And I know that the podcast has been a bit chaotic at times. For example, back in October, when I slowed down the podcast and I changed the pitch of my voice, that was weird and I'm really glad that someone told me about it. So, thank you. And then I know that I've fixed it by slowing it down slightly, but keeping my own voice basically. So, this a podcast I'm gonna keep. It will continue. I will fight to make sure it continues because I love it so much.
You guys aren't just listeners to me.
I will never see you guys as numbers. All of you take time out of your day. I'm busy, I know you're probably busy. So, the fact that you want to listen to me is amazing and I'm so grateful, right? You honestly don't know how much it means to me that you guys want to listen to me ramble on. Like at the moment, this is almost half an hour long as I'm recording this, even though that's gonna change when you guys hear it.
There's a lot going on and I'm not gonna give up this for the world. I want to keep learning. And if I didn't have this podcast, I know my psychology learning would just be what I learned in lectures and that's not what I want because lectures, come on, they're fixed, they're a bit boring at times. I want to go beyond my lectures. I want to learn about stuff that no one in psychology really talks about. And that's the aim of this podcast.
So, thank you for listening. I honestly love you all and you guys are just brilliant. So, thank you.
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