My experience studying Psychology at Sussex

By Ruihan Wu

For the past three years I have been studying a BSc Psychology with Cognitive Science at Sussex. For the next two years, I will be doing a master programme in the area of neurodevelopment disorders, first at UCL and the second year at Yale. If I say that I have never doubted myself, I would be lying. Before this summer, every time I saw students in their graduation gowns, I felt not only excitement but also panic because I was not sure if I was competent enough to face my future. When I eventually attended my graduation, I felt calm and peaceful. This is the most precious thing Sussex has given me: the confidence to realise my dream.

Getting a degree and good scores in the UK was not an easy thing for me as an international student. After I graduated from high school, I did consider studying abroad, but it was not my first choice. The reason that made me challenge myself was my passion for psychology. At that time, I learned that Sussex had one of the UK’s largest schools of Psychology, and that it was located in Brighton, one of the most beautiful seaside cities in England. I have never regretted my decision.

Ruihan on her graduation

Ruihan on her graduation day

When I first arrived at uni, I knew that this was an exciting beginning, but that the road ahead was full of difficulties. The first one was my lack of English and academic abilities, which soon became my greatest disadvantages. Frankly speaking, before I came to the UK, I had never used English apart from in classes, and when I arrived here I found out that the educational system in the UK was very different from my country. In China I had only learnt English for exam-oriented purposes rather than for communication skills or personal interest. So I am really grateful to Ms Lynn O’Meara, an advisor in Student Life Centre, who helped me register in a course on Academic Development and Better Writing to improve my English and academic skills. We have been in touch ever since; her constructive advice and encouragement have given me greater confidence in overcoming difficulties and really helped me a lot.

My second difficulty was the lack of basic knowledge in my subject area, and the limited opportunities before uni to access knowledge about psychology and research. Fortunately, even though some of my course mates had already taken psychology in A-level, some had not. All the lecturers and tutors tried their best to meet everyone’s expectation and offered in-time feedback and resources to make sure we were all on track. It is not always possible to understand everything in a lecture, but the faculty, both during their office hours or on the forum, were always available for students, which was really helpful. No matter what kind of questions, they always answered patiently and told us where we could find more information. I especially want to thank my academic advisor Dr Ryan Scott who was really supportive. His suggestions about academic development and his encouragement meant a lot to me, and helped me overcome many difficulties. During the first two years, therefore, I got a relatively comprehensive insight of different psychological schools of thought, and found that autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) is the area in which I am most interested and on which I would like to focus in the future.

In the third year, an extensive range of modules was available, and I could tailor my own course and follow my passion. In terms of the final dissertation, each student can be supervised by one of the leading researchers. I used to be worried about my third year empirical project, but the solid research and knowledge foundation that I gained in the first two years were really helpful. I really want to thank my supervisor, Prof Jane Oakhill. She not only allowed me to do the topic that I was interested in, but also gave me lots of helpful suggestions on literature review, proposal writing, material preparing, experiment conducting, data processing and analysis, and report writing. During the spring term, Jane was very busy, but she still managed a regular meeting to help me keep the project progress on track and never missed responding my emails.

Throughout my degree, no one has ever pressed me in my study, but whenever I needed help there was always specialist support for me. The knowledge and skills I gained in Sussex make me feel confident to face and create my future, which is the most valuable thing. I have never regretted choosing Sussex and majoring in psychology; and I will never regret to follow my passion and commit my life to ASCs.

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