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Sabina Zavoianu-Dutescu BSc Psychology, 2012

MSc/PhD Health Psychology

Sabina Zavoianu-Dutescu's Photo

Hi, I'm Sabina and I studied BSc Psychology at the University of Southampton.

The degree course was great because it encouraged us to think for ourselves and exposed us to lots of aspects of psychology to help us identify our interests.


Q: What did you enjoy about your undergraduate degree?
What I really liked the most was being given the freedom to think. I come from an education system that focuses more on learning things by heart to pass an exam, so it was really exciting to be encouraged to form your own opinions. Even if you disagreed with the lecturers you could get a good grade as long as you could back up your arguments.

The course exposes you to a range of different areas within psychology so even if you don’t know what you want to do straight away you can find something that interests you. When I first came here I thought I knew what I wanted to do – I didn’t know anything about health psychology. But when I heard a lecturer talk about what a health psychologist did I knew it was the path for me.

Q: What was the teaching like?
The lecturers are passionate about what they’re teaching and make the content interesting and relevant, using recent studies and research. I feel really lucky to be working with my supervisor; she has been really inspiring both during my BSc and now on my MSc/PhD. She used her expertise and experience to help me come up with a research project that is relevant to my interests.

Q: Tell us about your volunteering roles at the University
I helped to establish Branch Up, a student-led volunteer initiative that takes local disadvantaged primary school-aged children on trips and outings. This was through Southampton Hub, which is part of a national charity that has branches in universities around the UK. Our aim is to promote positive relationships between the volunteers and the children, and to broaden the children’s aspirations. Branch Up is now in its third year and we have around 40 volunteers working with more than 30 children.

Q: Our work on Branch Up was recognised by a students’ union Excellence in Volunteering award.
While doing my BSc I also volunteered for the mental health charity Student Minds, helping to facilitate support groups for students with eating disorders. In the third year I was president of the committee. I was awarded a lifetime membership of the students’ union for my work with Student Minds.

Q: What are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering enriched my understanding of the theories I was learning about and helped me to develop my interpersonal and organisational skills. The busier you are, the better you get at time management!

Q: What are your impressions of student life at Southampton?
I had some expectations about what going to university would be like, but the reality has been so much better. I’m from Romania, and I had visited London and some other UK cities before, but I didn’t know what it would be like to live in Southampton. The campus and the city are great and it’s an amazing experience – with all the people you meet along the way and all the friends you make.

Q: What are you doing now?
I was lucky to gain a Jubilee Research Scholarship from Psychology to do an integrated masters and PhD in health psychology. The scholarship covers my fees and there’s a stipend to help with living costs – I don’t think I could have continued my studies without it.

I’ll do the lectures and seminars for the masters this year, which will feed into my PhD research. The research is into chronic conditions, specifically asthma. This year I’m looking at people’s experiences of asthma control and treatment and how they feel about dealing with their condition. I’m also looking at the existing literature on this topic. The aim is to translate the findings from my research into the development of an intervention that focuses on what people with asthma want and need.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
I still have another three years to think about what to do next, so I’m keeping my options open, but I’d like to stay in health psychology – perhaps working in a hospital or surgery, or in academia.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying at Southampton?
There are lots of opportunities – you just have to go and get them. Go and talk to people, there are lots of people to support you to do whatever you want to do.


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