A few months ago, I contacted Alicia, aka @pop__psy because I had some questions about my own schooling. Today, I took the initiative to conduct her interview, so that her advice can be valuable for other students, especially during this delicate period.

Tell us about your school career! What are your future plans?

I didn’t end up in psychology through the so-called “conventional” route. After having passed my baccalaureate S with a specialization in science and technology (AB), I decided to study for a PACES. My dream since I was little was to become a doctor or a midwife. I failed my first year of PACES, finishing 1009th out of 1939 in medicine. So I decided to repeat my PACES by doing my best. Unfortunately it was not enough and I missed midwifery by only 15 places.

So I reoriented myself in a Psychology degree by doing a bridge directly to the 2nd year at the University of Montpellier. At that time my first goal was not to continue in psychology but to succeed in getting a master’s degree in order to then make a bridge via a selection allowing me to enter the 2nd year of midwifery or medicine. Finally, I discovered a real passion for psychology and I even did a 35 hour internship in a prison environment which made me mature and confirmed my choice of orientation. After passing my L2 with a 15.33 average, I transferred to the University of Nîmes. This transfer, in addition to allowing me to be closer to my family and my boyfriend, also allowed me to have a better chance of getting into the Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology in Cognitive Behavioral and Emotional Therapy that I was looking for. I validated my L3 with a 14.93 grade point average and an honors degree. I also did a 105 hour internship in a prison environment with a clinical psychologist trained in CBT, which reinforced my choice of career path. Last year, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an average of 15.13 and I was accepted to the M1 TCCE program at my university in Nîmes.

This year I am doing two different internships (300h in total): one at the CHU Caremeau in Nîmes – child/adolescent psychiatry pole ADD/ADHD and another one in high schools in Orange, Carpentras, Bédarrides, … At the end of my Master’s degree I would like to work part-time in hospitals (addictology, pediatrics, oncology, psychiatry, …) and in prisons (USMP) Eventually I would like to set up a private practice with other health professionals (physiotherapist, doctor, dietician, nurse, speech therapist, etc.). I also plan to do a DU in criminology/victimology, EMDR and medical hypnosis as well as learn sign language.

How did you experience the selection for the Master?

The selection was very hard for me psychologically. I had applied 18 times, so I had to get organized. The waiting time for admissions to the universities was really long and seemed interminable. From May to July I had a lot of insomnia because I was thinking a lot… Will I be accepted in the Master I want? Will I get into at least one Master’s program? Will I have to go to the other side of France? What will I do if I don’t get accepted anywhere? What plan B is there? … Moreover, I knew that the answers could come until midnight so I stayed up until that time. I isolated myself because I felt very alone during this time. My family and my boyfriend didn’t understand because I was alert all day, looking for any email I received, any notification on my cell phone. This created many conflicts between us. The refusals from the universities were also very hard to receive. Especially since the reasons were devaluing and made me lose confidence in myself even though I had finished 4th in my class and validated my semester with a good mark: “insufficient knowledge”, “insufficient results”, “insufficient knowledge and know-how”… Then the first acceptances came and I regained some joy and motivation. On July 6, when I was accepted into the Master’s program I wanted, I cried all the tears in my body, I was trembling. My revenge on the PACES was finally here and a new page was turned for me.

What would you say are the biggest difficulties you have encountered during your schooling or during your professional experiences?

I would have to say the teachers who put obstacles in your way. You know the ones who tell you that you will never make it, that you are simply not made for this profession and that anyway it is fate if you fail. After my failure in PACES I lost my good mood, my motivation and my dream was gone. It took me almost 1 year to mourn and start again on a good basis. So I have only one thing to advise: never listen to people who want to devalue you if it’s your dream you will end up getting there even if you don’t go through the so-called “classic” way.

In this time of COVID, how do you manage your studies?

Let’s just say I’m handling it as it comes… A bit like everyone else I guess. I moved back in with my parents because I know I would have been in trouble if I had stayed home alone. I try to take time for myself: I read, I play Animal Crossing, I watch Netflix series, I make face masks, I do my mother’s and one of my sisters’ hair color, I walk my dog, I enjoy my boyfriend. Without these few moments of break I feel bad and I feel like I have a sad mood every day of the week. I’m in the unmarked months for my internship so right now I’m enjoying it even if it’s tiring because I’m finally practicing my future job and I’m learning a lot! However, I must confess that I am a little apprehensive about resuming my distance learning classes on March 15th. If I could, I would stay in the internship all year long!

What advice can you give to students who are going through a very delicate situation because of the health crisis?

First of all, if you have any difficulty, if you feel bad, if you are in financial or academic difficulty, please talk to someone! Do not stay alone, it is very important. Between students we are also here to support each other. Don’t forget that you are all part of a big family and that there will always be someone to help you or simply to listen to you because who better than a student can understand what another student is going through at this time. Moreover, even if you are alone at home, find activities that you like and that you could do from time to time: painting, drawing, reading, watching TV shows, … or simply give yourself small pleasures: go to macdo, drink a hot chocolate, a tea in front of your favorite TV shows, call your friends, make work groups on teams, aperitifs on teams, enjoy your morning coffee, … It would also be too simple to tell you to stay strong. I don’t like that word, it doesn’t mean anything. We all have the right to feel bad, to cry, to ask for help. This will never make you weak – quite the contrary! So I prefer to use the phrase: let’s stay united we all students!