This week we meet Seren Alaeddinoglu, a recent graduate from Psychological Sciences who’s been learning about Horticultural Therapy, volunteering as a crisis counsellor and doing some translation work from her flat in Camden Town.
What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?
I’ve just graduated from the Psychological Sciences MSc course. I’m particularly interested in child psychology; I started working with children with learning difficulties five years ago and was drawn to work in this field, which is interesting, fun, and challenging by turns. Since then, I’ve had several other roles (paid and voluntary) supporting children and young adults with cognitive or physical impairments.
My dream career would be one in paediatric neuropsychology, which involves first qualifying as a clinical psychologist, and then undergoing further training in neuropsychology to understand the relationship between the brain and behaviour. Paediatric neuropsychologists use this knowledge to help children with brain disorders, injuries, or developmental issues.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?
When I first started at UCL as an innocent undergrad, I got a job at the University of London Students’ Union bar (also known as Student Central). I made friends for life and met so many interesting people, on both sides of the bar, studying all sorts of subjects at universities all over London. No shift was the same - we did sports nights, Friday club nights, pub quizzes, karaoke, and music gigs. They’ve closed down now due to Covid-19, but I’ll keep the fond memories of sneaky tequila shots, crying with laughter, and dancing on tables.
Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?
Tavistock Square Gardens - especially in autumn. The trees are taller than the surrounding buildings and it’s a world set apart. Also Ambala on Drummond street for the gorgeous Indian sweets and snacks.
Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:
What’s one thing you’d like to see in a post-Covid world?
Better social prescribing systems, which is where health professionals refer patients to local, non-clinical services in the community for health and wellbeing support.
Last year there were few of us who didn’t struggle to cope at one time or another, and the pressure on the NHS to provide mental health support is immense. I volunteer at Horticultural Therapy sessions, which is just one option outside of mainstream NHS services. There’s plenty of alternatives (creative activities like art classes; physical activities like sports clubs; meditation, to name a few) all of which can have huge benefits when it comes to looking after our mental health. It would be great to see these integrated into our healthcare system through social prescribing services, which would relieve the pressure and waiting lists on NHS services and allow people to access wellbeing support sooner.
Who inspires you and why?
Real-life humans who I’ve met in person, like my friend Odessa, who I met on my degree programme. She overcomes obstacles that would make most people give up, including debilitating illness and disability. She is fiercely intelligent, driven, but is never too busy to help others who are struggling. She inspires me to continue on my career path, give back to other people, and always make the most of what life has to offer.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I love bees! I did a beekeeping course, own many bee-themed items, often paint bees, and honey cakes are my favourite.