Image: online psychology degree fiona hendersonWhich course did you study?

BSc Psychology and MSc Health Psychology

Why did you choose this course?

Both my children suffered from long-term illness when they were younger and this was the catalyst for stopping work for a while and then changing career direction. I started the BSc (Hons) Psychology as I was particularly interested in the challenges faced by adolescents with chronic conditions. Based on the positive experience of this course, and the fantastic support from particular tutors, I then went on to do the MSc in Health Psychology.

What attracted you to online learning?

I am based in Singapore and I had sick children so the UDOL courses offered the flexibility I needed.

Why did you choose the University of Derby Online Learning?

The University of Derby were one of the few online universities that offers both BSc and MSc Psychology degrees accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS).

What were your goals and aspirations when starting your course? Have they changed during study?

I initially started the course wanting to go into pain management, particularly working with adolescents, however my focus has shifted more towards psycho-oncology. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my second year of the BSc (whilst doing the health psychology module and writing an essay on what stops women going to the doctor when breast cancer symptoms arise. Amy Baraniak was the module leader and was incredibly supportive. I took about 8 months off whilst undergoing chemo and went back to the course part time after that. However, when I returned to studying I really struggled as I had serious issues with my memory, things would go in one ear and out the other. I found it really difficult to assimilate information and my ability to process information was much slower. It has improved a lot in the last year or two, but it has definitely taken time. But I do think that the studying has been enormously helpful with the whole recovery process.

I have since done quite a bit of research on cognitive damage post-chemotherapy and have written my MSc dissertation on the subject. The change in focus from pain management to psycho-oncology has come about not only from my own experiences but because I am now much more aware of the difficulties that many survivors go through whilst trying to return to ‘normal’ life.

You were the prize winner at graduation for Director of UDOL prize for special merit in a research project. Did you enjoy your research project and what was your research project based on?

I have really enjoyed my research project and was incredibly honoured to receive the Director of UDOL prize for Special Merit in a Research Project. Both Ainslea Cross and Amy Baraniak have been the most fantastic supervisors and I couldn’t have done it without them. As I mentioned, my research project was a qualitative study investigating chemotherapy-related cognitive damage. I focused specifically on long-term Asian and Caucasian breast cancer survivors, so essentially looking at cultural differences/similarities in the psycho-social impact of “Chemobrain”. I have learned so much not only from the academic research but also from survivors that I have talked to and interviewed during the process and I hope to continue with this research now that I have graduated.

How did you balance your study around professional/personal commitments?

Once or twice I had to delay a module but most of the time it was manageable even though at times it was quite stressful! I have always worked for myself, so am quite disciplined in that respect. But I did find studying took up quite a lot of my time as everything took longer after the treatment.

How would you describe your online learning experience at Derby? What did you find particularly beneficial?

I really enjoyed the actual learning process, and the support from tutors, particularly for the MSc was invaluable.

What was your most memorable moment during your time at Derby?

Getting my final results! I was not expecting them at all. Whilst I loved the learning, I found the assignments quite stressful, because I could never gauge whether I had done a decent job or had missed the point completely. One of the things that made a big difference between the BSc and the MSc, was that I had more contact with the tutors so there was more reassurance that I was on the right track.

How has your qualification helped your career? Has the knowledge you have acquired, complimented previous work experience in any way?

Psychology is a completely different field from any of my previous experience. As yet I have not started looking for work but hopefully the courses have provided me with the qualifications I need to start on a new career.

Can you describe your experience with just one word?

I found it hard to sum up my experience with UDOL in one word - essentially it has been quite challenging at times, but overall an incredibly rewarding experience.

What would you say to anyone considering an online course at Derby?

From my own experience, I would definitely recommend it.