Swapping the sun for snow – working with World Vision in Armenia

I have always been aware of the incredible opportunities we have here in Australia with our education system. For many years I have aspired to somehow utilise the opportunities and resources available to me in a way that could enhance my own capabilities, yet also benefit others.

Inspired by this, I started at Deakin University doing a Bachelor of Applied Science – Psychology (now called Bachelor of Psychological Science), while also a mum to a three-year-old daughter, two-year-old son, and newborn baby! And after many years of a mix of online and on-campus at Deakin’s Melbourne Burwood Campus, as well as part-time and full-time study, I finally completed my degree with Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours).

Originally I had envisioned becoming a clinical psychologist, but in fourth year discovered the world of research – something that was a perfect fit for my goals, aspirations and interests. And so I switched my plans to completing a Doctor of Philosophy (Psychology).

My PhD has been a fantastic opportunity to explore some significant, real-world issues with the support and guidance of my very knowledgeable and experienced supervisors, and others from Deakin’s Faculty of Health. My PhD thesis explores the affects of poverty on adolescents from a psychological perspective, highlighting areas where intervention may be effective. As part of this, I was able to partner with World Vision and evaluate their program Peace Road for Children in Armenia.

View of Mt Ararat from Yerevan, Armenia

Peace Road for Children was designed by World Vision to improve the outcomes of children exposed to significant poverty and related risk factors, and has been modified for adoption in many countries involved in their development programs. The program I evaluated had been prepared for implementation across rural areas in Armenia, and my role was to design the overall research protocol, identify appropriate outcomes, train local staff to collect the data and monitor the process, and then run the analyses.

Presenting questionnaire results to the children

The road to collect data in Aparan Marz, Armenia

It has been an amazing journey in which I have grown both personally and professionally. Each time I have travelled to Armenia, I have left a Melbourne summer for an Armenian winter – sub-zero temperatures (-17). I have swapped summer clothes for layers, boots and a thick coat; hot pavement for slippery ice; and dry bushland for snow covered mountains. I have experienced new foods, new music and new traditions, and the warmth of being made to feel so welcome by my amazing hosts. The children are lively, friendly, and fascinated at having a blonde foreigner visiting their schools. It is one thing to read about other cultures and the complexities of conducting ethical and respectful research and implementing programs in another culture, but a whole different world to experience it firsthand and learn from it.

Traditional Armenian dancers

I highly recommend taking that step outside of your comfort zone and experiencing what it is like to learn or work within another culture. There are organisations out there doing some amazing things, and I am so grateful that I was able to partner with World Vision over the past three years. It was 100% worth taking that risk and approaching both World Vision and Deakin to see if I could make that connection. Deakin’s openness to this journey, in addition to their support and building of my capacity to oversee this project, has provided me with an unforgettable opportunity to leave an international footprint.

For further information about studying at Deakin and to view the many degrees on offer, visit our international student page.

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