By Darryl Sweeper, Jr., MA
In an effort to shed light on the experiences of international students studying health psychology, the SfHP Student Council’s Diversity Committee interviewed 5 graduate students from different countries of origin. To encourage honesty, we have kept the identities of these students anonymous. Below are their unedited responses. We hope that these perspectives will highlight the incredible tenacity of these graduate students, as well as provide insight into how SfHP and graduate programs in health psychology can better support international students. Click here for parts 1 and 2 of this 3 part series.
What advice would you provide for other international student who are entering or currently in graduate school?
4th Year Clinical Psychology Psy.D. student from Jamaica – “If you are getting/have your master’s degree but are unsure of pursuing your doctorate degree until later in life, do not wait. Go straight for it because if you return home, it will be extremely difficult to come back after establishing a life back home.”
3rd Year Clinical Psychology Psy.D. student from Bulgaria – “Make a community and friends. As a person who is not close to home, friends are very important to handle difficult situations. Engage in activities and speak up. Use all the help that you can get!”
2nd Year Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA student from Kenya – “apply for all and any scholarships you can find. The money is sort of out there you should never have to go into massive amounts of debt in order to earn an education.”
1st year School Psychology PhD, Canadian Student – “ Find your community, a safe and trust worthy network of people, it is important for your mental health, and if any crisis comes up! Without trustworthy and understanding friends and their families, there would have been points where graduate school and life, in general, would have been VERY difficult.”
2nd Year Pediatric Psychology Ph.D. student from China – “Plan ahead, do your part, and everything will be fine…I would tell myself to “HAVE A LIFE!” But really, I put a lot of pressure and work on myself to plan and do as much as I can because I see this opportunity as transient and ever-changing and it is. But if I could do it differently, I would ask for more help and spend more time with people I love and care about.”
What would you like to share with the psychology community to better support international students?
4th Year Clinical Psychology Psy.D. student from Jamaica – “International Student Committee to discuss logistics and options for us, such as CPT [Curricular Practical Training], OPT[Optional Practical Training], APA internship search, etc. International student gatherings so we can support one another if needed.”
3rd Year Clinical Psychology Psy.D. student from Bulgaria – “May be creating a larger community of international students so we can share our common challenges.”
2nd Year Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA student from Kenya – “More scholarships and financial aid support please, specifically for Masters students.”
1st Year School Psychology Ph.D. student from Canada – “I think we need to continue to have conversations like this to spread awareness about the experience of international students. It is a blind spot in our community, and it’s a shame that many working professionals do not know how to support us and can even be fearful of recruiting us for internships because of the “extra work.” However, if we are to be truly diverse and inclusion, it would be a no-brainer to have this be a part of the training. At least a manual somewhere with how to help supervisors and training sites house an international student.”
2nd Year Pediatric Psychology Ph.D. student from China – “I think it will be very helpful to hear about other international students, faculties, and other professionals’ journey.”