finikpalma

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Nov 16, 2009
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So here is my story: I am a junior-year undergrad at an Ivy, majoring in Psychology, and am ultimately interested in a Clinical Psych PhD. I joined my major somewhat late, end of sophomore year, and as a result, I have only a year of research thus far, most of it pretty shallow (no real interaction with professors). My GPA is decent for my school, 3.5, and no GRE scores yet. Since I know I am not competitive for grad school yet, I am planning to take 1-2 years off after undergrad and work full-time as an RA to gain more experience.

My dilemma is this: next semester (fall of senior year) I have the opportunity to go study abroad in Japan. I have been studying Japanese for 3 years, and this would be an amazing opportunity to experience a new culture, etc.

On the other hand, next semester I also have the opportunity to take a Psych seminar that involves direct clinical placement, supervised by my professor. I would be working in a local mental health clinic for two semesters, learning behavioral therapy techniques, and would ultimately prepare a case study/report. This sounds like a great chance to work closely with a professor, gain clinical experience, and learn more about the actual practice of clinical psych. I would also be working as an RA in a lab and getting more research experience and taking upper-level psych seminars.

So I guess my question is this: which of these opportunities sound like a better option for me? On one hand, studying in Japan would be amazing and possibly life-changing (and I will be taking time off before grad school in any case). On the other, I have a great chance to improve my grad school competitiveness with in-depth clinical experience, research experience, and most likely also a good rec. It would also be an opportunity to make sure clinical psych is really the right career for me.

I realize that it's ultimately my choice and such, but I would really appreciate any and all advice :confused:
 

skipsy

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If are planning on taking off time between UG and grad school to do research, regardless of what choice you make next year, then it does not seem as necessary for you to do research next semester. I personally would go study in Japan - this seems much harder to do once you finish your UG. I took a class there one summer and it was amazing!

The only big negative side I see to going abroad is that the contacts you could make doing your research next year could be invaluable. While I don't doubt it would look good that you did reserach in UG, it just seems like a shame to miss out on such a great experience abroad.
 
Jan 25, 2010
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+1. Study abroad. You likely won't get the chance again, and your job as an undergraduate is to explore as many things as possible. I don't think the seminar/clinical work trumps a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If it is a PhD you are after, (clinical) research is key, which you will get as an RA anyways.

That being said, have you spoken with your professor about doing the program only during your final semester?

Edit: I have to insert an addendum to that. You have to consider the type of study abroad program. If it's through your school with some quality courses, great. If it's a general program that Americans go on to have a good time, you'd want to think it over a bit. Nothing against those type of programs, but the options do weigh differently in that case. If it'll be an enriching experience all around, go for it. If it's just to experience the culture and gorge on tempura, you can do that later, too... and take me with you.
 
Last edited:
Jan 14, 2010
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Can you do a program in Japan over the summer?

I went to an Ivy and studied abroad, although it was difficult to get some support from certain people in the university. I don't think I missed out on much, or at least not a class like what you're considering. I also did two years of full time RA work - which is what I felt set me up well (in terms of pubs, posters, etc. etc.) for clinical phd programs generally.

And honestly, when people say studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience... I agree. I don't think I will ever easily have the opportunity to live in another country for 6 months and I wish I could. I was extremely ill for the first two weeks of my study abroad, and things were not easy, and maybe nothing terribly mind blowing occurred - but all the little positive moments made it something I feel lucky to have experienced. Most people don't have that kind of opportunity. There is a flexibility now in college for you that will be hard to find once you start working, once you go to grad. school, once you go to internship, once you get a postdoc, and once you start working again.

That being said - you'll never know what's going to make a difference. Maybe the clinical and research experience will give you a leg up (i.e., networking)... or maybe your job after your graduate will be enough. In my case, the program that I'm going to - the POI asked me to talk about a time, non-academic, that I displayed a certain characteristic... and guess what? That example came from when I was studying abroad and made for a very interesting conversation.

You never know - and it sounds like a hard decision to make. One could argue that you can go to Japan later, but one can also argue you can get that clinical experience later and that it's not as important as research stuff which you will be getting anyway as a full time RA.... sigh... I don't envy your decision hahaha.
 
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Mar 26, 2010
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Wow wow wow that's really tough decision to make

The psych seminar sounds amazing...reallly good stuff. It's important to find out from others who took the seminar if 1. the teacher is good and 2. you're really gonna get what you described.
About the Japan trip, could you go in the summer instead or is that not an option?

I had the opportunity to study abroad and didn't take it so that I could do a senior psych thesis instead. I don't regret it at all but then again, a lot of people I know had amazing experiences studying abroad (I'm sure you've heard great things too).

It's hard for me to say this because the psych seminar sounds SO SO SO good, but since you are planning on taking two years to get an RA position, I think that if you do a good job at that, you'll be able to get in to grad school. In other words, not taking this seminar is replaceable in terms of getting the research experience you need but I'm not sure the Japan trip is. Disclaimer though: I have not applied to grad school yet so my opinion may not be worth as much as someone who has (although I've read quite a lot about it).

Good luck with your decision and let us know when you make it!!!
 

kapinkkidowski

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Jan 11, 2009
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I'd go to Japan; if you want to take time off after undergrad, the rsrch experience you get in a full time position will be much more important than a semester of clinical experience now. Plus if you are interested in a Ph.D as opposed to a PsyD, clinical experience is not weighed as heavily.

I feel like if you wont get another opportunity to study abroad that way, you'll be passing up a great opportunity. If Clinical Psych is what you want to do with your life, you'll have plenty of future opportunities to do clinical work (and most likely will do some of it if you are an RA on a clinical psych study). And think of it this way - studying in Japan makes you sound well rounded and interesting (not the most heavily weighed factor for gradschool, but I think it is one none the less)
 

PsychDreams

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Dec 17, 2009
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Do a little research on your Japan program. If you're in the psych department over there, there may even be a class offered in which you could gain academic credit for field work or research experience and then you don't have to chose between your options. That's what I did abroad (granted it was in England).

But my ultimate vote is to go to Japan. You won't regret it.
 

psychnic

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Do a little research on your Japan program. If you're in the psych department over there, there may even be a class offered in which you could gain academic credit for field work or research experience and then you don't have to chose between your options. That's what I did abroad (granted it was in England).

But my ultimate vote is to go to Japan. You won't regret it.
+1, My study abroad program offered a psychology RA for credit. Though it wasn't in my primary field of interest, it was still a great experience to learn how mental health/psychology are viewed and studied in another country.
 

Chenelsea3

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study abroad was the best experience of my undergraduate career, and it changed so much for me (met my significant other, who led me to getting a great research job after graduation, which led to me getting into my top choice phd program this year!) that I really can't imagine my life if I hadn't gone. It just gives you so much of a broader view on the world, and it's an experience you won't be able to have at any other time in your life probably. it can help you both personally and professionally in ways that you could never imagine-- i say go for it!
 

blockuvb

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Mar 1, 2009
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Personally, I say go abroad. However, if you really want to do this other program, you can consider a compromise. Maybe take a year off after UG and go travel or teach in South East Asia for a year. That way you can do both. It might be worth thinking about taking a year off anyway!
 

Aura5

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I might be biased, but I'd say go to Japan. I did a summer study abroad to Paris, and it is hands downs one of the best experiences I've had. It had nothing to even do with my majors...it was just something I always wanted to do since I was 12, and I made a point to make the most out of each day I was there and it was really great, liberating, just pretty amazing. Even with my (then unresolved) digestive problems, pained high arch feet, blah blah...I made the most of it and nothing brought me down and I'm really glad I did it.

So, I am biased I know. But like others said, you may not get this opportunity again. You are planning to take 2 years to do research anyway.

If it makes you feel better, I have the same goal of being a Clinical (or Counseling) Ph.D. I didn't face the music till my SENIOR year. I took as many psych as I could in that last semester, but I still have a lot of catch up do to do. But I'm still going for it. :thumbup: In other words, I'm still determined to be a PH.D. in psych, and I'm even farther behind than you are right now, heh heh.

So..Japan, doo it!!
 

buzzworm

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I'm not sure whether it's too late in the year to look into this, but would it be possible to get in some extra research/clinical experience over the summer? Many universities offer summer internships in psych labs for students from other schools, so that might be worth looking into.

I've also gotten the strong impression that admissions committees care much more about research experience than clinical experience anyway, so I don't think that missing out on the clinical experience senior year would be hugely detrimental. And if you are concerned about clinical experience, you could volunteer at a suicide hotline or something similar while you're doing your RA work after graduation.
 

krisrox

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I would (and did) choose study abroad hands-down. From someone who did have a life-changing experience living in another country, you WILL regret it if you don't do it!!! Try to get clinical experience some other way. Right now, be a college kid, relax, and experience something new!
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Definitely study abroad ... when interviewing at several grad schools this year, all of my POIs said that the thing that impressed them/stood out the most from my application was that I'd taken the initiative to study abroad. All applicants have research experience, but it's the extra things like that that will set you apart and make you interesting. Plus, it gave me lots of great stuff to talk about in my interviews!

... but I'm biased :) My study abroad year was the greatest time of my life!
 

Markp

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Japan... get research experience there some where some how.

Mark
 
Feb 8, 2010
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When I was an undergrad, I, too, wanted to spend a semester abroad my junior year. But there was one required course in my major that was only offered in the second semester, and I thought I'd better stay in the States and take it my junior year because I thought it would be too hard to do it senior year and write my thesis at the same time. So that's what I did.

I've always regretted not going to live abroad for a few months. I would say go to Japan. It's really hard to travel and get an experience like that under your own steam (without being under the aegis of a program of some sort), and you might not be able to do it again for a long time.
 

futureapppsy2

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Watashi mo nihongo wo benkyou shimashi.ta. :)

I'd say go to Japan (and this is from someone who turned down a couple of offers to go there in HS--not a fan of long plane flights.)
 

kiwish

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Jan 26, 2008
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日本に行きなさい!
(hope that comes through on this board) You've probably already decided that you are going abroad to Japan. I was in the same spot you were and have followed a similar plan----depending on which school you will be studying at, you may have some VERY nice options. PM me if needed-