Monday, December 12, 2011

One Heck of an Early Christmas Present!

Four years ago I sat in a packed lecture theatre with my new friends, discussing where we would like our psychology degrees to take us. At the time I spoke of wanting to be a lecturer, but by the end of the first year I had my heart set on pursuing a Clinical Ph.D so that I could be involved in both academia and practice. I sought out the advice of a faculty member at the time to work out how I might achieve this goal, and found placements, volunteering opportunities and work that gave me a new perspective about the profession. These experiences culminated in my decision to apply for various postgraduate psychology programs with the ultimate goal of gaining entry into the Clinical PhD program at my university.

I was due to find out whether I would receive an interview or interviews for these programs shortly after the release of the Honours results. A couple of days after they were released I noticed a missed call on my mobile. I didn't make the connection between it and my applications until I recognised the voice of the  administrative assistant from my uni from the voice mail message. I froze, and a few seconds later screamed (in hindsight it was probably a good thing I found out via voice mail), I had been granted an interview! My poor parents who had heard my scream came to see what was wrong and instead of finding me hurt as they had imagined, found me jumping up and down in excitement. A few days later I learned I had also been successful in securing an interview at another university.

In the intervening days I finally managed to settle on something to wear (no mean feat), visited the careers centre for some advice and did a lot of thinking about why I wanted the Clinical PhD. Sitting outside the interview room at my university on the big day and listening to the hubbub upstairs (I think the faculty was having a Christmas party) I was more excited than nervous. I had actually made it to the interview, the goal I had set four years ago. I was interviewed by a panel of five psychologists/lecturers. I wasn't sure how I had fared but I had gotten a few encouraging smiles and I had managed to answer all their questions. I was surprised when the interview ended, it had all happened so fast, and I was told I would find out the outcome in the next week. I wished the next student waiting outside good luck and headed out to play the grand piano I had discovered the day before in one of the neighbouring buildings.

A few hours later, back at home, my mobile rang. I ran to where I had left it and again was greeted by the same person as before. My first thought was that my university wanted more information, or that there was something I had forgotten to do. When I was instead told that I was being offered a Clinical PhD, I was flabbergasted. My first question was "who do I say yes to?!" While this conversation was going on my poor Mum was trying to decipher my facial expressions. When I mimed the news to her she shrieked and I had to shoo her away so I could hear the rest of the conversation!

I cannot neatly describe how I was feeling in the immediate aftermath of that phone call but it was a mixture of amazement, excitement and being overwhelmed. I had gotten exactly what I wanted, a Clinical PhD at my uni. I could pursue research and practice, I would get to work with my Honours supervisor researching something in the area of autism again. I knew what I would be doing for the next four years and it was everything I had hoped for. The next day I learned I had also been granted a scholarship. What more could you ask for?!

I'm still acclimatising to the magnitude of it all and getting used to knowing the outcome of my applications rather than waiting for news. The best analogy I can give you for how I currently feel draws upon Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 70s version with Gene Wilder), I feel like Charlie Bucket when he learns that he's just inherited the chocolate factory.

"Do you know what happened to the boy who got everything they ever dreamed of Charlie? He lived happily ever after."

It has been wonderful sharing my news, though it seems I am the only one surprised by it! While everyone else seemed to have been confident that I would get into a program, I hadn't let myself think that far ahead. I just had faith that I would get to where I wanted to go, but that the means and time frame for getting there were anyone's guess!

 Now I can really enjoy my holidays. What a fantastic early Christmas present!

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