The following is a transcription from an in-person interview with Victoria Preston at Fruitions where a student assistant was able to talk with her about her research and internship experiences at Roanoke College and Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? (Such as interesting hobbies and your favorite color?)
I’m a psych major. I don’t think I have any interesting hobbies. I like animals and my favorite color is green.
What kind of classes are you taking this semester?
This is my last semester, so I’m at the very end of what I need to be taking. I’m taking a seminar course [for psychology], and then I’m taking a sociology class because it’s interesting to me. I [also] work for Dr. Powell on a research lab.
How do you like seminar?
It’s kind of challenging just because you’re working in a group to come up with a project. Most of the groups are four people, [but] we’ve got three, so it’s just kind of difficult to get everyone on the same page, to get everyone to meet on time, [and] to get the work done, but it seems to be going well so far.
How do you like Dr. Powell’s lab?
I love it. This is my second year working for her, second semester I guess, and her lab is about an emerging adult study or doing something with adolescents. Last semester I just worked in helping other students with their research- I didn’t do anything of my own. (…) This year I’m doing my own study from a previous student’s and some of her work. I have someone working for me this time. So, (…) I really enjoy it and you get the experience of what working in a research setting would be and you get her attention to help with anything else that you need.
So, what are you doing specifically in the lab?
There’s a Roanoke College student who graduated last year who did a study on emerging adults and talking, ghosting, friends with benefits, that kind of relationship. I’m doing a secondary data analysis of her study. Dr. Powell and Dr. Friedman did a study on a ghosting, so I’m taking some of their information and putting it together and running my own analysis of it: dealing with if there’s a time frame, what blocking is, if we can accurately define what “talking” really means. [Talking is] different for every person. That’s basically what I am doing this semester.
In addition to working in the lab, you also completed an internship. Can you tell me about that?
I interned at Blue Ridge Behavioral Health Care in the Child and Family Services [Department]. I was toying with the idea of working with children and families and I wanted to intern at a place that was local enough to where I could potentially work there because I am from Salem. [Interning at Blue Ridge] was just the best option and was something I was vaguely familiar with.
What did you learn from your experience at Blue Ridge?
A lot of what I did there was observing group therapy or sitting in on family assessment planning. If there was a kid that needed some sort of services but couldn’t afford it, they would go to this board and make their argument for the government or organization to pay for it. What I learned was that there are a majority of people who need the help that Blue Ridge is giving but they can’t afford it. That was kind of surprising to me because you think “oh, you know everybody has insurance, that insurance just pays for it” but that was not the case. [I also] just figured out my own personal biases in working with kids because I still want to work with children – I eventually want to be family therapist. Maybe. Working with kids, you think it’s going to be one thing and then it’s an entirely different thing.
I did learn a lot about what it was like to work in an actual office setting, which was really important to me because the only other job I’ve had I was working at a jewelry store. That was just really interesting to me to just see how complicated the behind-the-scenes of mental health is and trying to get people the services that they need.
Were there any moments during your internship that really surprised or struck you?
Since there are children and family services in that building, I thought it was only going to be kids needing some sort of residential treatment or psychiatric testing but it’s anything that has to do with children. […] I’m not sure… There were a lot of interesting experiences that I never anticipated or expected to see.
How do you plan on applying what you learned in your internship to what you’d like to do in the future?
The reason why I wanted to intern at a local place was because I plan on applying for a job there, so basically just taking all of the things I observed and kind of deciding if that’s the path that I want to go down since I’ll only have a bachelors [degree]. You can’t really do a lot, so I’ll probably end up being a case-worker. Just taking the things that I saw and learned in my psych classes, counseling classes, or my abnormal classes- even some of my sociology classes. I’ve taken a lot of juvenile delinquency and behavior classes and the things I’ve learned in my classes [I’ve also] seen first hand. When you do an internship, you have to write daily reflections of what you did and how it applies to what you learned and I could apply 90% of what I saw [interning at Blue Ridge] to something that I learned in my classes.
What’s some advice that you have for students who want to complete an internship?
Definitely do it. If I hadn’t taken the internship, then I would have no idea where to go or where to apply. Experiencing something is good but also being able to network and having people that you can then go to or have them be a reference for [is good as well]. I only interned for two months, so you don’t have to have a long internship to get a full experience . You can just do it for a summer. I would tell everyone to do an internship if they can, especially if they are not a hundred percent certain- even they are a hundred percent certain, but maybe they [realize they] don’t like it that much.
Thanks Victoria for taking time to meet to talk about your research experiences and your internship with Blue Ridge. Congratulations on completing your degree!
For those interested in applying to an internship or wanting to know more about research opportunities, please contact Dr. Camac in the Psychology Department and/or Dr. Lassiter in the Biology Department.
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