Advanced Audiology at Manchester: An international student’s perspective

The University of Manchester is the most globally diverse university in the UK, with over 10,000 international students enrolling from over 160 countries worldwide. One of those 10,000 students in 2019 was Wen-Hui Hsieh, a Taiwanese national who enrolled on to the MSc in Advanced Audiology. Below, she explains why she decided to move halfway across the world to study here and outlines why she was so impressed with this master’s degree…

Why I swapped New Taipei for Manchester

I was awarded my bachelor’s degree in audiology and first prize as the graduate with the highest GPA in 2016, which I undertook in the Department of Audiology and Speech-language pathology at Mackay Medical College in Taiwan. I also passed the national exam to qualify as an audiologist in Taiwan and was offered a place to work as a university-based audiologist in our department after graduation. Subsequently, I spent three years learning how things work in the institute and how to work with experts with different backgrounds.

During this time, I engaged in various tasks to cultivate a broad range of skills as well as developing a desire to dedicate myself to research and teaching in audiology. In 2019, I found that my work was no longer challenging and I decided to pursue a higher degree in audiology to further my contribution to the development of audiology in my country. Thus, I thought that it was time to step out of my comfort zone to study audiology in the UK, which I listed on my life list when I was a senior. Fortunately, I was accepted as a full-time international student at the world-famous University of Manchester for a master’s degree in Advanced Audiology in 2019.

Compared with the west, systems for clinical services, professional training, and research have not been completely set up and developed in Asia. In fact, audiology is still a relatively new field in Taiwan and has been in development for a mere 30 years. As a result, I thought being directly and intensively trained by world-leading audiology professionals in a respected institute would benefit my career.

The course

Before commencing the course, I was hoping to acquire in-depth knowledge and master advanced transferable skills. I wanted to be able to offer audiology services with evidence-based practice and conduct high-quality audiology research. In addition to professionalism, I was looking forward to listening to others’ stories about their audiology journeys to provide different perspectives to audiology.

Advanced audiology students are given the flexibility to individualise the programme by selecting modules from the audiology programme, deaf education programme and the STP programme based on their needs and interests. We were also able to choose from different teaching approaches based on our preferred learning style and schedule. Most importantly, the staff at the University are supportive and inspiring and I found that they invested so much effort and time to help us succeed.

The most difficult part of the course for me was to do with the fact that English is only my second language. Fortunately, there were considerable resources and opportunities on campus to foster my improvement in English. Getting used to a distinct education system was another challenge for me. Compared with the learning style and atmosphere in Asia, which greatly highlights lectures, exams and grades, the west puts more emphasis on active learning and the uniqueness of every student.

How COVID impacted my year

The most significant impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic was the restriction on face-to-face teaching activities. Consequently, it was far from perfect that the two-day workshop and tutorials were either conducted virtually or cancelled as physical interactions and hands-on practices extremely benefit my learning.

Fortunately, I still was able to continue my research project by moving face-to-face interviews online but experienced difficulty recruiting participants for the project. However, rather than easily giving up, I eventually recruited the required participants and collected rich research data to complete the dissertation and complete the entire process of academic training in combination with my perseverance as well as the support of the entire department.

Despite these difficulties, the negative impact on my study was considerably diminished by the effort of all the faculty for efficiently responding to this crisis and the use of blending teaching strategies. Looking back on the whole study journey, it was challenging but I realised that I should not take anything for granted as what will happen next cannot be predicted.

Future plans

After completing my master’s study at The University of Manchester, audiology remains one of my main interests. Surrounded by many outstanding and forthcoming professors, I hope that I can become one of them one day. In the near future, I plan to undertake a PhD to continue my academic training and at the same time, I would like to take part in national and international audiology events to broaden my horizons. After completing my PhD, I hope to complete postdoctoral training overseas, then work in an institute in Taiwan to contribute to my society.

My advice to prospective students

Figuring out the meaning and value of being an audiologist has been the most important thing for me because being a high-quality audiologist requires professionalism as well as enthusiasm. When I reflect on my audiology journey, there have been countless experiences that helped to confirm that being an audiologist is rewarding. For instance, I never forget the sincere appreciation expressed by an adolescent with a rare disorder for assessing his hearing, and the big smile with tears on a young woman’s face who was able to speak to her parents on phone for the first time by using hearing accessories.

For future audiology students, I suggest finding out the reasons for pursuing audiology by paying more attention to the role hearing plays in daily life and exposing themselves to audiology-related activities. As a graduate of advanced audiology at The University of Manchester, I believe that this course helped me to become an audiologist with unparalleled expertise.

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