I received my MS in educational psychology back in 2005, and after a failed attempt toward earning my PhD in the same subject matter, I had all but resigned myself to “some day I’ll be a researcher, but I don’t know when or how”. A lot has changed since 2012 when I was forced to abandon my PhD studies, specifically in the past year.
In September of last year, the parents of a child with mild learning and behavioral difficulties offered me the opportunity to be a one-on-one aide for that child during the entire school year. It was a tremendous experience and one that I really felt unprepared for on a daily basis. But, I learned a lot from the “trial by fire”. And, once the school year ended, I began working at an organization that emphasizes sensory learning. I truly believe that my one year of intense in-school work prepared me for this new role. I now worked with up to 8 kids a day using sensory teaching techniques to improve their literacy skills. It was terrifying to be working full time after not having done so for five years, and luckily, I was able to reduce to significant part-time hours after only about a month! But, I was working with kids in an educational environment. This is something I didn’t think would ever happen because I saw myself as over-educated and under-experienced.
Since I finished my MS degree, I had a desire to work with researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Language and Brain Sciences. Of course, I wasn’t known to the University. I didn’t earn my degree there and had never taken even one course there. So, presenting myself with just a degree did not make me a likely candidate for a research assistant position. My only opportunity was as a volunteer but financial difficulties had never made that possible, until now.
At the end of September, I will start volunteering with a post-doc at UW’s ILABS for, what I hope, will be long-term or at least until I’m able to restart a PhD program. The post-doc student informed me I will start with the basics – participant recruitment – and move up through developing research protocols and eventually learning how to do an EEG. This is incredibly exciting for me, and I really hope I will continue to have back up financial resources so that I continue volunteering without anxiety over my financial responsibilities.