Psychology with Criminology Graduate

SLVeteran Louise

Education: Psychology with Criminolgy - Keele University, UK

SLV.Global Placement: Level One Mental Health Placement, November 2016

Current Role: I’ve been home a month now, I’ve sent off my application to start my course in primary school education in September and I’ve applied to work in Thailand or Austria to teach English over the summer. 

Tell us about your SLV.Global experience: I graduated July 2015, and since then I’ve been wondering around aimlessly not sure what to do with my life whilst my friends found graduate jobs, mortgages and started paying into their pensions. Sometimes I’d feel a rush of panic, worrying I was being left behind. I knew however, that settling down was not for me, I needed something to kick start my journey towards a career I’d love and that’s when I accidentally stumbled across SLV.

I knew my parents wouldn’t be happy, they had been pushing me to apply for grad schemes and ‘real jobs’ since I moved back home. Bar work and summer camps with teenagers wasn’t exactly what they had envisioned me doing, when I kept saying I’m working towards applying for my master’s in social work. I’ve always wanted to work with young people, they are my inspiration and I knew I needed experience with a wider variety of age groups and backgrounds to get on the course so I went to the internet. After a few days of searching SLV popped up, I read some of the details and my heart skipped a beat. This is exactly what I was looking for! Each aspect was perfect; teaching English as a foreign language, combined with hands-on mental health and psychology experience, whilst being immersed in a new and beautiful culture. Fantastic!

It wasn’t till I got to the airport that the nerves kicked in, what was I doing? Maybe I should have settled down with that grad scheme after all… comfortable and set into daily routine life. My mind raced; had I packed enough resources? What clothes did I forget? Would anyone even like me? I’d never travelled this far on my own before; I’d been wanting to travel for so long but now it was here all I could think was “I am definitely going to get lost”. But as I stepped onto the plane and was greeted by a smile and my first “ayubowan” from the airhostess I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Touch down, a broken suitcase handle, and one scary car ride later and I was at my home stay. I met my roomies who were eager and enthusiastic to find out all about me, and share their stories of SLV in Bandaragama. I hadn’t slept but my excited mind didn’t care, everything sounded so wonderful I couldn’t wait to get started.

Thursday was here, my first day of projects! We headed off on an hour and a half bus ride past bustling markets, sky high trees, crazy moped drivers, and colourful sarees. We were watching the existing volunteers teach English to a group of giggling girls, they did so well engaging them in the lesson that it gave me confidence that I could do this too. By the end of my first week I was completely settled, this felt like life and I felt happy. I woke up each day ready for my projects and left them each evening excited for our homestay dinner, and Sri Lankan food is something dreams are made of! I quite simply could not get enough of it, which was actually quite lucky as our Amma didn’t seem to share the same views of portion control as we did back home. Rice and curry is a treat to the taste buds and two portions a night still left me hungry for more.

After the first week of orientation and our weekend in the jungle, the next few weeks flew by. We were in full swing teaching English, visiting rehabilitation units and running therapeutic sessions to service users. We were laughing with them, dancing with them, and creating masterpieces from tissue paper, glue and goggly eyes. Who knew so many things could be made from such few resources and a bit of imagination? My experience with each individual service user was special, and sometimes those encounters were a lot easier than others. Some days we came home exhilarated, sometimes exhausted. Even if it took the whole session to get that one young girl to dance, to engage that little boy in colouring, to teach a group “head, shoulders, knees and toes” we would keep trying. I left each project happy, and that was the main thing. I felt comfortable in my ability to lead, support and teach and I knew this was my future.

Tell us what you gained from the placement: Not only did I gain a huge amount of confidence and a career path in Sri Lanka, but also an amazing group of friends. At the end of 6 short weeks, I felt like I’d known the people I was sharing this experience with a lifetime. Somehow a friendship normally managed in years had developed, maybe because we had all shared something so intense and so unique together that we are bonded in a special kind of way. Only each of us knew how another one felt at projects, or how we pushed ourselves through catastrophes at the weekends. We laughed, we cried, we supported, we encouraged. We could make up games to pass the time together, or we stayed up late to make the time last longer and this made my experience that extra bit special. I’ve gained confidence in myself, my decisions and teaching style something which could never have happened if I didn’t take that leap and get on that plane. Whether I standing in front of the class, mixing between students during activities, or playing games I know that teaching is where I wanted to be. For everything SLV, my Sri Lankan family and my new friends have done for me I shall always be thankful. When I started my SLV adventure I was lost, but when I finished I’d been found.