Q&A with Kathy, a trainee clinical psychologist from Hong Kong (at University of Birmingham)

In the third Q&A blogpost, we are excited to have Kathy Ka-Ying CHAU, who is also now a member in the DClinPsy International Community steering group, to share with us her journey to the doctorate clinical training in psychology and where she is at now.


1. Where are you from? (Or how would you describe your cultural heritage?)


I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and spent most of my life there (except that I spent a semester in the US for an exchange programme).


2. Which university and year are you in?


I’m now at University of Birmingham, and it’s my first year.


3. What made you choose the university you are at now? Eg. Their ethos? Lower tuition fees? The city it is in? The interview experience? You got accepted and had no other options?


To be honest, I wasn’t sure what would be the possibility for me to get on the course, so I applied for all the courses that accept international students (this is one of the tips I would give to applicants if they don’t really have any strong preference towards which uni to study at).


I chose this uni mainly because the city (Birmingham) is quite ethnically diverse, which allows more discussion and reflection around SOCIAL GRACES as a therapist. Another reason was that the interview experience was really nice. I really felt heard and the follow-up questions made me feel that they truly listened and cared about me. Lower living costs and the uni reputation were additional reasons that I chose the current uni. And I have to say that I’m really happy with my choice!


4. Do you have a master's degree? If yes, which field is it in? Where did you do it? Why did you do a masters? If no, what made you decide not to study masters?


Yes, prior to getting into the course, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences (majoring in Behavioral Sciences) and a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. Both degrees were completed in Hong Kong. I did my masters mainly because I wanted to apply for Clinical Psychology courses in Hong Kong and it was one of the requirements to study a conversion programme.


It was interesting that when I applied for the BPS membership, my undergraduate programme (with approximately over 50% in psychology-related subjects I think?) were sufficient to obtain Graduate membership. Having said that, I have gained more insight about the field in my master’s degree, so it didn’t feel like a waste of money and time to me.


5. What work experience do you have prior to the training? Both voluntary and paid work are counted (starting from the most recent in chronological order)


General work experience:

2.5 years full-time plus 1 year part-time as a research assistant


Clinical experience (if any): e.g. assistant psychologist, research assistant in clinical settings, volunteer at clinics or hospitals, ...

3 years as a training consultant (in school settings)

6 years volunteering at a residential care for adults with significant impairment of learning disabilities


6. Is there any funding or scholarship you have applied for or known of, from your country?


Not that I am aware of.


7. Any other things you would like to share with the aspiring trainee clinical psychologists? E.g. tips? Fun stories? Horrible stories?


Getting on the course marked my first time being in the UK. I can still remember a year ago I was Googling alternative ways to become a clinical psychologist outside Hong Kong, and I ended up choosing the UK. The main reason is that the UK has a long history of psychological development, and I would like to learn the most up-to-date psychological techniques and skills in the field.


When doing extensive research about applying to the course as an international student, I recall someone on the ClinPsy forum asked whether it’s impossible for international students to get on training without prior experience or studying/ working in the UK. Someone replied, “it’s rare, but not impossible”. This short but powerful answer has motivated me to keep trying in the ups and downs of the application journey.



So my personal advice to aspiring trainee clinical psychologists would be:


I am really grateful for the help I had received in the clinical psychology community during the application period. Seeking help from current trainees or recent graduates is extremely important, especially when I had no prior experience of studying or working in the UK. Don’t be afraid to connect with them via various platforms (Twitter, Linkedin, FB groups, or the UK DClinPsy International Community) if you want to know more about the course ethos, trainees’ feedback to the course etc. Some platforms/ unis are having mentoring schemes where they would link up applicants with trainees, which might be helpful too.


Some courses usually offer information sessions during the application period, try to attend most of them to get the most updated stats and figures about the course, but bear in mind the time difference between your home country and the UK might mean you have to stay up late till 2am!


I can still recall I did a substantial amount of reading before submitting the application form, which helped me better understand the NHS, the role of a CP, and how to do reflection. Now looking back, I think the reading not only inspired me to draft my application, but also made me more prepared after getting on the course.


Self care is the key - this is a point I can’t stress enough. Don’t forget to take some time off and engage in activities you enjoy doing, which I found helpful to rewire my brain and bring new perspectives to my personal statement or interview preparation. Best of luck everyone!


Remarks:

Thank you Kathy for so openly and honestly sharing her journey to clinical training and her reflections on the experience. As mentioned in the previous interview with Ayse, there might be scholarships available in your home country or the universities that you are applying to, feel free to query related personnel (usually Department of Education in your home country, or Funding/ Finance Department in the desired universities) for more information.

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