Psychology at York – The Best Decision I Ever Made

Why Psychology?

I had always been fascinated by the human mind and, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been asking questions about why we do what we do, say and think. When it came to choosing York, it only took a matter of hours to realize this is where I truly wanted to spend three years of my life finding out what we currently know about Psychology, and finding out how I could become a part of answering the crucial questions we face concerning the human mind.

Why York stood out

I visited three universities in total when looking at universities: Durham, York, and Nottingham. My open day at York was genuinely everything I had hoped and more. I had never imagined that a University could look so green, and even village-like, while also housing some of the greatest minds known to Psychology. As well as the friendliness of staff at the department, I was wowed by Pete Thompson’s intellect and passion for Psychology and felt I was in a room full of people who were as excited as I was about the subject. I went home that day saying it would be the university, if accepted, I would attend.

What I wish I’d known before I started

The main thing I’d wish I’d known was to not worry too much about feeling unsupported, or out of my depth on the course. The department has been so supportive in making me feel welcome, and comfortable, in York. From day one, I’ve received academic, and more personal, support from my supervisor. In addition to this, I was relieved to find out that lecturers do not assume a great deal about the knowledge of students. Having not studied Biology or any science besides Psychology at A-level, I was nervous to study more scientific things like neurons, ion channels, and brain regions. However, the academic support from lecturers including discussion boards, practice questions in lectures and a range of teaching methods meant my worries were soon extinguished and Brain and Behaviour, the most science-based of BSc Psychology’s modules, is now my strongest area.

What I love about York now

Now, in my third year at York, I am no less convinced it was the right decision for me. I’ve been able to learn so much about – and hold (!) – the brain, conduct research with leading researcher Dr Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer, hear inspiring, insightful talks from masters of their fields including John O’Keefe, a Nobel Prize Winner who visited the department last year, and Alan Baddeley, one of the world’s most impactful psychologists, who works here. I now represent over 200 students as third year Psychology course rep with my friend Lolly.

One of the greatest aspects of Psychology at York, which is usually the first thing I tell people, is just how varied, and flexible, the department is, including the respective interests of academics here. I’ve spoken to other students about their plans to work as a teacher, in the police force, as a researcher in developmental psychology, and as a clinical psychologist. York – in teaching everything from neuroscience to social psychology and offering a wide range of module choices in our final year – has given so many students I know the opportunity to specialize to some degree in their areas of interest, and in myself has allowed me to realise my passion and interest in understanding more about the link between the brain and our behaviour, in a social context particularly.

As well as being varied in the content it offers, the Department of Psychology here is so diverse. I’ve met and made friends with individuals from a range of different backgrounds. Singaporeans, Russians, Italians, and Americans make up – along with many others – the body of students and professors at the University. This has not only enriched my experience, it has allowed me to learn so much from others and makes collaborative work, such as mini projects, so much more interesting and refreshing.

Being Encouraged and Inspired

One lecturer, and researcher, in particular who has inspired, and encouraged, me to understand and improve my abilities in Psychology is Dr. Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer. I’d been interested in conducting research in the department since I started my degree and in January 2016 Dr. Rueschemeyer encouraged me to apply for the Laidlaw Scholarship. Six months later, I led a 10-week research project with a researcher assistant and close friend – Lois – and we used electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate how individuals respond to semantic ambiguity alone versus in the presence of another individual. Alongside this, I’ve met 24 other scholars, have had leadership training, and have presented my research findings to a group of scholars with a view to present to more in the summer.

However, the Laidlaw scholarship didn’t just allow me to gain invaluable experience, and leadership skills. Last year, eight scholars were chosen from the Psychology department – all of whom have spoken highly of the department and their opportunities and were from different sections of Psychology at York: Psychology in Education, Psychology BSc, and the Neuroscience strand of Natural Sciences.

What’s Next For Me?

Having already learnt and achieved so much in the nearly three years I’ve been at the Psychology department in York, the next logical – and exciting! – step for me is to continue studying here. I’m currently in the process of applying to study a Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience and continue working with leading researchers, and brilliant fellow students to understand more about the human brain. As well, I hope to continue improving the already brilliant dialogue between students and staff at the department, as part of a team of 10 undergraduate reps in the next six months.

At York, I am certain there are more exciting learning and research opportunities to come and I’m excited to see what my next chapter at this leading department holds.