A 'nontraditionally aged' student
Fourth-year graduate student Amanda Hook of Argosy University-Dallas, began her psychology graduate training in 2003 at age 30, after working for nine years in the business world, earning an MBA, then deciding to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a psychologist. "Going back to school at a later age has allowed me a deeper understanding of my course work," she says. "I can apply the concepts I'm learning in school to my day-to-day life, which makes for a richer understanding and application of the material."
While Hook feels she made the right choice, she faces similar challenges to those of many older students: She works 50 hours a week at her practicum and full-time job, takes courses at night and is preparing for a wedding next summer. Luckily, Argosy accommodates her schedule, offering a range of night and weekend classes. That said, Hook is concerned about how she will make ends meet during her internship next year. And, like many other working students, she wishes there were greater numbers of well-paid and part-time internships.
The role of older student raises interesting challenges in the classroom, she notes. "As we get older, we know ourselves better," she says. "We're more likely to communicate our expectations about the quality of our education to others in the program."
Faculty may or may not be prepared for that, though most welcome the chance to hear varied experiences and often tap older students to teach classes, Hook says.
The difference between the world she's leaving and the one she's entering was starkly highlighted in a recent experience: From 6 to 9 a.m., Hook worked in a homeless shelter. Immediately afterward, she reported to her job, managing the investments of her company's wealthiest clients.
"My psychology training has helped me to see who I am and what I value," says Hook.
CRISTINA E. BUSTOSA
bicultural, bilingual student
At a job she held at an agency that provided in-home behavioral therapy to children with developmental disabilities, Cristina E. Bustos noticed differences between the way services were delivered to Spanish-speaking clients and how they were provided to clients who spoke English.
"All of the Spanish-speaking families were on waiting lists for muchlonger, and there were very few service professionals who could provide services in Spanish," says Bustos, now a fourth-year student in the University of Oregon's (UO) counseling psychology program.
That experience propelled Bustos-a bicultural Latina student-to continue her education so she could provide therapy and improve mental health care for the Latino community, she says.
Today she teaches a course on working with Latino clients to undergraduate students in UO's family and human services program, and she is thrilled at the opportunity to raise their awareness about the unique issues facing Latinos in this country. She is accomplishing this through activities such as sending students who don't speak Spanish to events in the Latino community.
"Many students don't have an understanding of what it is like to be part of a marginalized community," she says. "Getting a glimpse of that is an important experience."
Students agree: They've asked for the course to be lengthened and required. Bustos is already brainstorming ways to make next year's class even better, she says.
An international student
New Delhi native Riddhi Sandil made the decision early on to study psychology, in part because she admired an aunt who is a therapist, and in part because a friend in her teenage years had considered suicide and could not get appropriate help.
"I come from a culture where mental health issues are largely ignored," Sandil says. "For my friend, talking to someone about her problems was not an option."
While India is making strides in mental health care and today her friend is doing fine, "people are not as open about mental health problems as they are in American society," she says.
To this end, Sandil came to the United States in 1999, first gaining a bachelor's degree at Knox College, then attending the counseling psychology program at the University of Iowa. She is in the midst of her internship at the Texas Woman's University counseling center, where she sees clients from many walks of life, many of whom want to learn more about her background. "I view curiosity as a plus!" she says.
Sandil-who, as one of a relatively small number of international psychology students, thinks of herself as an ambassador for her country-is now experiencing the same conflict felt by many of her international peers: whether to stay in the United States once she graduates or return home.
"There's a very strong pull for me to go back to my country and work for the awareness of mental health issues," she says."
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