• Question: Hiya! How did you get to where you are today and what course did you take :)

    Asked by Em to Lorna on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Lorna Camus

      Lorna Camus answered on 13 Nov 2018:

      Hi Em!
      Good question!
      I did secondary school in France, where I took classes in philosophy, english/french literature, history/geography, maths, sciences, economics and sociology.
      I then applied to come study psychology in Scotland. I applied to the uni of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt uni, Stirling uni, St Andrews uni and Dundee uni. I got an conditional for Stirling and from Edinburgh uni, but didn’t get any of the other ones. I really wanted to go to Edinburgh uni, but when my results came out, I was missing the conditional grade by 0.18 points (in France we are graded out of 20, and the condition was 15 out of 20, I got 14.82). However, I also had conditional grades for Maths and English, and got much higher than what they had requested (19 and 16 instead of 13 for both). So that summer was very stressful for me as I was figuring out whether I would be able to go to Edinburgh uni or not. After much back and forth, they reviewed all my grades and decided the whole picture was satisfactory, so they let me in.
      Once I came to uni, I took classes in sociology, social policy and general psychology classes. There I was introduced to all areas of psychology (biological, social, cognitive, developmental, individual differences), and to my huge surprise, a lot of statistics! I had no idea that I would be doing statistics (that’s completely my fault for assuming I knew what to expect!) and so was slightly shocked and scared (I always had issues with maths in school). However, I got good teaching and started seeing the uses of statistics, and soon I really enjoyed them!
      I dropped sociology and social policy at the end of my second year as they were just outside courses and I couldn’t keep taking them. However, I also specialised in my last two years in areas of psychology that were most interesting to me, such as clinical, developmental, moral and social psychology (with classes like “Cognitive development in children”, “Social psychology: Experimental and applied approaches”, “Clinical psychological problems in context”, “Moral judgement and behaviour” or “Psychological therapies”). From my second to last year at university, I worked part-time at a solicitors to support myself, and to gain experience working in an office (admin experience is quite valuable in most jobs you will end up doing, I know it’s helped me massively even in my studies).
      In my last year, I also took part in a scientific outreach program (part of the uni), and got to run intro classes to psychology for secondary students. This was my first experience with public engagement and I loved it! I also did my dissertation on the way vloggers on youtube discussed their mental health issues. I did this to show my interest and get experience in mental health research, as this was the area I wanted to work in later. I also presented my dissertation at my first ever conference, which was great experience!
      During my last year I also volunteered with Victim Support Scotland (as a supporter for witnesses and victims of crime going through the courts for trials) and with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (as a Library volunteer, running sessions in the patients’ library for patients to provide a brake from the hospital for them) to get experience with people who may be living through a distressing time in their lives.
      Near the end of my last year, I also quit my job at the solicitors to work part-time as a support worker for children with additional needs (including autistic children) to get experience working with the population I was hoping to study and research (I wanted to get to know autistic children and what life was like for them, to better understand their issues and how to help them). I was hoping this experience would also add weight to my Master application, and would show my interest for the topic.
      I applied and indeed got into a Master in Developmental Cognitive Science in the same department as I did my undergrad, and here took many courses in research methods, child development, and clinical psychology, and spent most of the year working on my dissertation (which was on mental health in autistic children, to get further experience in that area), which I also presented this summer (which looks great when applying for research positions). I also did extra courses for no credit (so you don’t have any assignments for them but they still show on your transcript, so you can say you did them) to learn more about areas that interested me (mainly clinical psychology). The course I was on also gave me the opportunity to take a research internship within my department, helping one of the researchers there with some of his work. Thanks to that, I got more experience in research, working on two different projects with both children and adults. This was very valuable when it came to applying for my PhD, as I could show I had varied research experience, working on different projects and with different populations.
      During my Master, I then applied to PhDs at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt uni. Although I got into Edinburgh, I was unable to get funding, and could not have done 3 years without it. Then I got offered an interview with Heriot-Watt and finally got offered the funding I needed!
      So I believe I am where I am now because of a few things: 1) I volunteered and worked with people and in places which supported my interests and my professional goals, in a way that I could clearly show to potential funders/employers; 2) I consistently sought out opportunities which furthered these goals, and gave me a varied skill set; 3) I was never quite sure what I wanted to do, just that I wanted it to be with children and in mental health, whether that was research or some other job outside of uni, so I did a variety of things that could fit both and catered to both (by attending conferences and doing many research projects for research jobs, but also by working/volunteering outside of uni for other jobs); 4) partly probably because I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to go to uni and take on all these projects.
      I think that’s a very long summary of my last 5 years, sorry it was so long but I hope it will give you some idea of what it’s like! 🙂