Skip to main content

International work experience bursary winner, working as a Mental Health Volunteer with SL Volunteers, Sri Lanka

Despite only being in the first year of his degree, as an aspiring clinical psychologist, Christopher identified that SL Volunteers would provide him with experience that he would be unable to obtain in the UK. To excel in his chosen field, Christopher recognises that he would benefit from obtaining a PhD and states that, "since competition for the doctorate is fierce, I realised that I needed some kind of edge over other potential candidates. My volunteer work has taught me an Eastern approach to mental health, which I believe will be a valuable asset that is uncommon amongst most applicants… I have also gained confidence in myself and my abilities, which I believe will help me during future interviews. Now that I have the foundation for work experience in mental health, I think that I will be more comfortable when applying for further voluntary or paid work. I am now sure that a career in mental health is definitely something that I wish to pursue and I will tailor my personal and professional development to achieving this goal."

Christopher’s placement in Sri Lanka lasted a month and enabled him to work in a variety of settings, ranging from running therapeutic activities for patients at special needs centres, child development centres and the National Institute of Mental Health, to teaching swimming to young children and teaching basic English to both children and adults. Some days he even took responsibility for teaching groups of 15 adults single-handedly.

Undertaking such a range of activities enabled Christopher to develop a wide range of skills during his placement, including bolstering his psychology knowledge, gaining direct experience with patients with mental illness, developing his creative abilities (devising activities suited to particular patient groups) and developing empathy with the groups with which he was working, as well as improving his teamwork skills. This has helped Christopher to identify what experience he must now focus on in the UK. He is now writing an article based on Sri Lankan psychology, culture and his experiences, which he intends to submit to the university magazine, the newsletter for the school of psychology and potentially The Psychologist – a magazine aimed at Psychologists and students, published by the British Psychological Society.

Overall, Christopher observes that his experience was invaluable, helping him to identify that a career in mental health is definitely something that he wishes to pursue and giving him increased confidence when applying for further related experience here in the UK.

"Christopher was an amazing volunteer with us, and we were very sad to see him leave. Rarely do we have someone on the team with Chris’s dedication, passion and keen interest. He contributed to the projects in a positive and individual way, which won him great praise from his colleagues, his students, the patients he worked and of course me… His drive and ambition were palpable during his time here; traits which I believe will get him a long way in his field. Myself and the team loved having Chris on the team, and would welcome him back again without a second thought. We wish him all the best in his future pursuits." - David Shannon, Project Development Manager