Alana Potter is a third-year BSc Psychology student finishing up a placement year working as a Research Assistant in the Psychosis Research Unit in Manchester. Here, Alana discusses what she has learnt and her thoughts on returning for her final year.
Why I did it
Within the BSc Psychology programme, there is a huge emphasis on employability and gaining work experience. As a second-year student, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree (still not quite there yet!) and I figured I needed to gain some experience within the field of Psychology to help me make this decision.
I have always been interested in the clinical side of psychology, learning about mental illnesses and how to treat them, so experience in this area was crucial to me. In second year, you get the option to apply for a placement year, which the University advertises posts for, which is really helpful in the application process.
I applied to three placements and got an interview to be a Research Assistant at the Psychosis Research Unit in Manchester, and I was thrilled when I got it! My goals for the placement were to gain practical skills in clinical research, improve my confidence through contributing ideas to the team and gain an insight into patient care in psychology.
What a Research Assistant role entails
Working as a Research Assistant involves a huge variety of different tasks. This ranges from patient-focused work such as interviewing individuals with mental illness on various psychological measures and contacting their care team for any risk information, to more admin-based tasks such as creating recruitment leaflets, database work for clinical trial data, and transcribing interviews.
What I’ve learned
When I first started attending online meetings with researchers and psychologists, a big thing for me was imposter syndrome. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing compared to these very professional people. However, as the weeks went by, I started to gain confidence and receive really positive feedback from my supervisor, which definitely helped to reassure me that I was on track!
I couldn’t recommend working with this research unit enough. Everyone made me feel so welcome and really helped me gain the experience and skills I needed along the way. The opportunities I have been given this year have made me a more confident individual with a wider skill set, which will definitely assist me in getting a career in psychology in the future.
Going back for final year
In September, I will be returning to university for the last year of the course and to do my final year project. Because of my placement year, I feel so much more confident with my degree, and I have gained a large range of skills that will help me come up with research ideas to suggest to my project supervisor and even just generally in my essay writing.
Overall, I definitely recommend doing a placement year. It is an amazing way to get experience in the field of psychology, as well as gaining an insight into a career in mental healthcare.
Learn more about studying psychology at Manchester.