Psychology students spend 5 weeks living and working in Sri Lanka

Posted on 3rd June 2015

Two of our final year undergraduate students, Sophie Proffitt and Isla McGowan were lucky enough to spend five weeks in Sri Lanka living with a Sri Lankan family in Maharagama, Colombo and doing voluntary work in the mental health sector.

During their time in Sri Lanka Sophie and Isla completed placements in a children’s home where they taught English and in a special needs home where they provided fun activities for the patients such as arts and crafts, card games and physical exercise games like the egg and spoon race!

Sophie and Isla also spent a day shadowing a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist around the more disadvantaged areas of Sri Lanka. They met his patients and learnt all about their history, from an eleven year old boy who had been physically and emotionally neglected and abused, to a man in his fifties with schizophrenia.

During their free time Sophie and Isla got the opportunity to do lots of travelling, visiting the jungle, the beach and nearby towns where they spent time relaxing, going on safari trips and visiting interesting sites such as the Lipton Tea plantation. 

When asked how this experience would help in their chosen careers Sophie said “A lot of the time, in order to gain experience, you need experience! Going to Sri Lanka and volunteering has really helped. I feel as though I developed lots of skills such as my communication skills and gained some brilliant hands on experience in a psychiatric unit. I now also have a greater understanding of civil war, natural disasters like tsunamis, and their impact upon mental health. I also gained a deeper understanding of mental health conditions in general, and in a non-western culture.”

Sophie and Isla say that they would definitely recommend this experience to other psychology students; You will meet so many new people and make loads of great friends, as well as being able to gain experience that you would find hard to get in England.  Everyone in Sri Lanka was so friendly, and the organisation itself was brilliant in providing any support that you needed whilst out there.  It was also so inspiring to meet some of the wonderful doctors in Sri Lanka, who were working so hard to help their patients with their mental health issues.”

This volunteering scheme was run by SLV. Their Mental Health Placement is for Psychology students and graduates, who in addition to volunteering abroad are looking for hands-on Psychology work experience in the mental health sector. For more information please visit www.slvolunteers.com .