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An IMU Alumna’s Story : My Journey Studying Psychology

30 May 2017

I came into IMU with the intention to study pharmacy or medicine thinking that it is the ideal career for a person with decent grades and likes natural sciences. To add to that, my early observation and interaction with different people formed a general impression that those fields are highly regarded in society with a clearer job pathway and would allow one to live in comfort. It was perhaps a blessing in disguise that the pharmacy programme that I wanted to enrol in was full and the cost of medicine was simply too high for me without a scholarship. Welcoming party for IMU psychology students Deep down I was also not truly convinced that I will be happy working as a physician or a pharmacist so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and explore other options, soon after finding myself drawn to psychology as I saw it being the core to unravelling one of the biggest questions – why do people think, feel and behave in a certain way. Although psychology was not a popular choice as it holds many stereotypes, I decided to pursue it for one reason, the genuine interest in the subject matter. I’m also thankful to my family for not objecting my choice as with many stories I have heard and instead they greeted it with welcome. Today I can confidently say that it was the best decision I have made as not long after the start of the programme at IMU, I found my passion and many common myths about it was debunked over time. Apart from the academic life, which is undeniably hectic but fundamental to building knowledge and professional abilities, there is those exciting moments that happened outside of the classroom from having ‘mamak session’ and day trips with friends to participating in sports and interdisciplinary events.

Collecting food for Food Bank

IMU provides plenty of extracurricular opportunities to a point I can pick and choose depending on the type of experience I want to gain. Among all, the ones that was most valuable in strengthening my soft skills was being the President for the IMU 3rd Professionalism & Ethics Forum, Vice President of the IMU Mental Health Week 2015, speaker for Dignity for Children’s Sexual Health Education, coordinating IMU Chariofare 2014 & 2015 activities, tutoring English for the IMU Dream Bigger Reaching Out, Refugee Project by AMSA-UNHCR and creating an animal care education (ACE) programme for the Malaysian Animal Welfare Association. As much as possible I try to juggle between my studies, extracurricular activities, family and social time, part time work and other commitments but I think there’s no secret rule to it because at any particular time the least urgent matter from the list of important things will take a back seat and that’s when shifting priorities comes into play. I am also immune to make certain sacrifices for the greater good and I have learned to manage my time better which also include being more comfortable to say no in a polite way to some irresistible and undesired matters.

Looking back, those experiences in a nutshell brought more meaning to my years in IMU by not only exposing me to different types of people and situations that I would not get to see on a typical day but also served as a reality check to be grateful to my parents and help the unfortunate more after seeing how even little things for us would mean so much more for them.

One great learning curve which I appreciate now, even though I was battling with burnout at that time, is our final year thesis being a critical aspect of the psychology programme. The rigorousness of the whole research process certainly prepares us well for the challenges awaiting in Master’s and PhD. I had the opportunity to disseminate my thesis entitled “Psychosocial Barriers to Exercise Participation among Malaysian Women” supervised by Dr Jananezwary Kanapathy, at two conferences which had very different atmosphere and group of people. IMU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium was undoubtedly a more professional and serious event with a panel of judges who aim to bring the quality of research to international standards. It was truly an honour to be one of the presenters and win best the poster presentation. The Malaysian Psychology Student Assembly was a more lively conference attracting a mass of psychology enthusiasts. It was a pleasure to network and eye-opening to learn about psychology programmes in other universities. I am proud to say that IMU research presentations were among the best which comes to show that our highly qualified lecturers did an excellent job in developing students’ competence and setting IMU apart from the rest. I think naturally I am a person who sets the bar high for myself and would aim to sow the seeds for success simply because of intrinsic motivation. What’s more is if it’s the field that speaks to me the most that will instinctively drive me to invest my time and energy and preserve through the obstacles that come by. I know it’s common for people to have a role model acting as their source of inspiration but as for me, I can’t point to one single person because I look up to many successful individuals who achieve great heights in their own respective fields and more importantly is they serve as a reminder for me to pursue what I love.

Finishing with first class and winning the Tun Zahir Merit Award (top student) and Dean’s List function as reinforcement that not only my hard work and sacrifices but also the support and guidance of the people who journeyed with me paid off.

It’s always a bitter sweet feeling to graduate at least for me because it marks the end of a journey and a start of a new one. Having gone through it I can certainly say that we have very experienced lecturers who are genuinely caring and willing to go out of their way to help students. With the smaller class size it’s also given that you get more one to one attention which helps learning on both academic grounds and personal development. The revised structure of the programme is comprehensive enabling credit transfers and versatility in the working world thus all in all offering one of the best psychology programmes in Malaysia. As of now I would like to gain as much experience in Cubiks, the place I am presently working which is an assessment consultancy that provides solutions for talent identification and development. In a year or so I would like to purse my Master’s – ones I have explored further the diverse applications within psychology both locally and internationally.

To those who want to learn psychology, the study of human mind and behaviour, I would say go for it. People are all around us and that’s why the field is growing to benefit different populations and purposes. Whether your purpose is to understand yourself better and improve the lives of others or to discover unknown answers through research I guarantee the knowledge and skills that you gain will be an asset to you as its application knows no boundaries.

This article is written by psychology alumna, Swarnaa Sanmuganathan, who graduated with her degree in April 2017. 

Related Article: Honorary Doctorate Awarded to Former Chancellor at IMU Convocation

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