Psych 417A Blog: Where the journey begins…

By Li (Leigh) Chu


Leigh with her placement partner Sarah, and students at the Good Samaritan School for the Deaf

I guess my journey started back in the November of 2014 when I finally signed up for the course “Psychology and Developing Societies” and the International Service Learning (ISL) program. Like many of my peers (or maybe you?), I was quite unsure about my future, especially in terms of how my psychology degree would play a role in my future career. So I was thrilled when I learned about this program through some ISL alumni because I really wanted to know how to apply psychological knowledge in the textbooks to real situations.

Journey with ISL
Pre-departure meetings began in the following January. This program gathered a diverse group of enthusiasts, including students, ISL staff and alumni, who are passionate about international services, which facilitated many interesting discussions. Reflecting back now, I am genuinely thankful for these pre-departure meetings because they really taught me how to engage with an unfamiliar culture with respect, patience, and cautiousness.

Journey with PSYC417A
The course of “Psychology and Developing Societies” was a critical part of my journey. To be honest, this course’s topics were quite challenging for me to comprehend in the beginning. However, I am very grateful that I was in a very engaging class with supportive professors and peers. Although it only lasted for a month before our departure, it truly opened my eyes to issues, such as the need of indigenous psychology in the context of African culture, that I had not considered in the past. Even today, I still often revisit those unresolved questions and debates that we discussed in class on my own.

Journey with the Good Samaritan School for the Deaf in Uganda
My three-month placement took place in a small village called Kitengesa in Uganda with the Good Samaritan School for the Deaf. This school was founded by a well-respected lady, Mrs. Nsamba, with the goal to empower deaf children and break community stigma on deafness through education. Here’s a video that I made while I was there:

To learn more:

After one month into our placement, I started to have a number of plans that I would like to implement. For instance, when observing students’ passive attitude towards learning, I wanted to establish a school council to encourage students to take more initiatives in their own learning. After noticing teachers’ lack of interest in teaching, I also wanted to conduct interviews with teachers to understand how the school may improve its education quality. It was then I started to realize the role of psychology in community development. Every goal that I mentioned, including Mrs. Nsamba’s main goal, involves changing people’s beliefs or attitudes in order to alter or shape their behaviours.

My awaiting journeys…
Many people asked me what made me decide to move back to Taiwan after being in Vancouver for over ten years. I think it was mainly because of this journey to Uganda. During my placement, I have met so many amazing individuals who devoted all of their time and energy to their communities. Their dedication inspired me to really think about how I can utilize my psychological knowledge and research skills to research on indigenous topics that would benefit people in my home community in Taiwan.

Read other UBC students’ International Service Learning experiences as part of the PSYC 417A blog series.

About the author

Leigh has recently completed her psychology degree and is currently working in Taiwan as a Psychology Research Assistant. She is now specifically passionate about research works that enhance the well-being of older adults and people with disabilities in the context of Chinese culture.

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