Waterford Kamhlaba United World College Southern Africa - (WKUWCSA)

Melanie Hartgill (United Kingdom, WK 87-91)

Briefly tell us about what inspired you to pursue a career in educational psychology?

When I initially enrolled at university to study psychology, I knew that I wanted to be a child psychologist and work predominantly with children. Restrictions around psychology degree options in South Africa meant that the only way of doing this was to follow the path of educational psychology. Around the same time, I met Andrew, who I have since married, and discovered that he had a remedial background due to being dyslexic-this fascinated me. My intention then was to work mostly with children but focus on those who had learning difficulties that were preventing them from reaching their potential and achieving their goals. Once qualified, I had therapy clients and assessment clients for a few years until eventually I stopped doing therapy altogether, went into private practice, and specialised in assessments. Occasionally, I do guest lecturing which I enjoy and I supervise qualified psychologist as well as interns on a regular basis.

What role did Waterford play in your career path choice?

I think the main thing was that Waterford made it clear that I could do whatever I wanted to do. It always felt like there were no ceilings and no boundaries and we were as strong as we needed to be which meant that all career options were open to us. Without a shadow of a doubt, the high standard of education made it possible for me to choose to complete the three degrees that were required in order to become a psychologist.

Do you have any fond memories of Waterford? Please share.

I am inclined to say that I was not always on my best behaviour at Waterford, and therefore some of my memories should perhaps stay in my head rather than be shared in a public forum! Having said that, I remember driving to town on Wednesday afternoons after school in what we always referred to as the cattle truck, the coffee bars were brilliant and I think everyone enjoyed the 24-hour runs that we had. There was always something different and interesting going on Waterford and I really enjoyed that.

What advice would you have for aspiring students who might be interested in child educational psychology?

I think the main thing would be looking into the career in as much detail as possible prior to registering on the course and spending some time with qualified psychologists to make sure this is exactly what they want to do. It takes approximately 7 years to qualify, and, once qualified, there are a number of different avenues that you can take. Personally, I think part of what makes me successful in what I do is that I have become highly specialised and known within the field for doing assessments and that, to me, is incredibly important. I put my all into this career and genuinely love what I do, which will always be a motivating factor - and was a key reason why I stopped doing therapy, as it did not give me a sense of satisfaction. Study in the field of psychology does not end when you get your degree either and that is an important thing to acknowledge, continuing education in order to keep up-to-date and on top of what is happeningin the field is crucial.

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