The REACH work experience: from an attendee's perspective
Written by Adna Hashi - REACH Young Person's Community Champion
I did my work experience with REACH in the June half term of 2020. Last year was a very unfortunate year for all students on the lookout for work experience. At that point I would take any experience to help me have the upper hand when it came to my personal statement and the hunt of applying to university. Little did I know how much I would gain when the invitation to this work experience dropped into my inbox. I personally can’t thank the REACH team enough for this virtual work experience week, because it helped me gain unmatched skills. The work experience introduces psychology, covering all the basics. Therefore, I am going to give you an insight into the week, drawing on some other reviews of the work experience from fellow students and aspiring researchers of similar ages in this blog post. Make sure to read all of it!
REACH (Risk, Resilience, Ethnicity and Adolescent Mental Health) is a research study at King’s College London. As part of REACH’s engagement work, they offer a five-day virtual work experience opportunity to young people with an interest in psychology, mental health and/or research. The programme aims to develop the skills needed for working in mental health research and achieves this through covering a range of topics including psychology, mental health, research methods and public engagement in research.
The sessions provide attendees with the knowledge they need to complete tasks that researchers working in mental health do on a regular basis including, designing research, advising on current research projects at King’s College London, and issuing research findings through newsletter articles, blogs, and social media content.
The days ranged from psychology career talks and lessons, to recognising the symptoms of common mental health disorders and the stages that begin when someone seeks help from professionals. These sessions offer an insight into the history of psychology, including approaches, assumptions and contributions of psychologists, right up to present day work settings!
The passion project: Lynsey Dorn – a research assistant for REACH primarily runs the work experience programme. Lynsey suggests “this work experience week is all about deepening your understanding of working in psychological research and taking part in engaging tasks and activities every day to further support and challenge you in new and interesting ways, to reach your highest potential”. I felt like the work experience week was an opportunity for me to think in new ways. For me it piqued my interest in psychology and encouraged me to think in new ways, to be creative and to apply new concepts and ideas in ways that I didn’t think I could before. This work experience week fuelled me and strengthened my confidence in my ability. Not only are you receiving a unique opportunity to complete work experience at a prestigious university like King’s College, but the aim is also to build confidence levels in a range of topics and opens up the opportunities for pursuing psychology at higher education. The programme highlights these careers are not out of your grasp and there are many ways you can get involved in psychology or as a researcher.
My favourite sessions included the introduction to psychology. At the time, I had recently started studying psychology at A level, and I felt like this session was useful in increasing my understanding and I found it incredibly interesting. I also valued the collaboration and interactions that took place with other attendees during the sessions. When someone had a question or didn’t understand what was happening, we helped them in chat function.
Tasks are flexible, creativity is applauded in the daily tasks! I created a presentation on a topic of my choosing about psychology and I picked emotional support animals. I was encouraged to go about this in my own way, so I used a unique platform and decided to add pictures, and fun facts in addition to the content and I had a mini quiz at the end. Whatever works for you because there is no one size fits all approach to this!
Personally, I found that there was no rigid structure to the tasks which allowed me to be more creative than I expected. I felt more comfortable to carry out the tasks and get involved. I quickly learnt that the emphasis of the work experience was placed on what skills I wanted to gain from it as opposed to what work I would produce for REACH. Essentially that, the value of the programme wasn’t about the content produced but the development of using new skills to create content.
I was encouraged to do what I felt I was ready to do, I felt no real pressure to perform which made me want to get involved that much more. As for Lynsey’s personality, students that have attended the work experience week have praised her immensely. Here are some quotes from previous students; “The welcoming atmosphere [Lynsey] created motivated me to present my area of discussion to my peers virtually’. Another student said the environment created by Lynsey leads to ‘great feedback and positivity which escapes the screen and uplifted me in every way from day one!’. Personally, I believe Lynsey is the glue that holds it together, and the students are also what make the work experience what it is. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to my peers through the chat function on our breaks or in the optional sessions. We talked about anything and everything, the environment is so fun and encouraging.
If you’re interested and would like to attend, the next work experience week commences on the 9th August 2021. You can sign up here, or to find out more you can get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org.