Dr Sevasti Apostolou
"Surrey gave me the opportunity to become confident with a foreign language and develop my skills in using technology as a research tool."
What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study your course here?
I remember that back in 2003 the University of Surrey was the only European English language university that offered a masters in Environmental Psychology. Also, by visiting the University I got to know that there was a rich history in the development of the academic domain of Environmental Psychology, so it was the right and the best choice for the specialism I wanted to follow.
What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?
The campus, especially the green area with trees and the pond with its swans. Also I first recall the walk to the Guildford town, the brick wall buildings, the bridge, the river, colourful flowers. I also remember a foggy evening walking up to the hill overlooking the Cathedral.
What were the best things about your course?
I think that the strongest points that differentiated my course from others was that it was a small class, of six or seven students I think - two British, one German, one American, one Portuguese and one Greek. We were like a small team. Lessons seemed like workshops, meaning there was empirical learning, much dialectic method, and conversations were very interesting as I viewed the perspectives of students from different countries.
Also we were close with some of the academic staff. I still remember the Programme Director and academic teacher who supported me and showed great understanding on the matter of me being away from home and my country for so long for first time at only 24 years old.
What do you do now and what do you find most enjoyable about your line of work?
I have worked since 2007 as substitute psychologist in special education, this means that I work for the non-permanent personnel of the Ministry of Education in Greece, working with yearly contracts in state schools or diagnostic centers that belong in the domain of special education.
Previously, I worked in adult education for two years as an educator and as an executive in adult education administration. I enjoy the fact that I worked all these years in a Greek island called Rhodes, working each year with different colleagues, serving posts in all the process of special education from learning disabilities inquiries in general school, to diagnosis and then to the therapeutictic stage in special schools, collaborating with children, parents and other specialists. The work was very rich in experiences and enjoyable every day.
How did you decide what career to go into? How did your time at Surrey help you to decide?
Although I do not agree so much with the word career (I mostly want to approach it as a life journey serving a profession and exploring our identity) I think that special education came into my life randomly and we matched. Special education chose me.
After Surrey graduation I took up on 2005 another Master Degree at the University of Aegean Greece on the Planning and Development of Educational Units, which I completed in 2006. In 2007 I started a PhD at the same university and it was then when I managed to combine my psychology studies - my environmental psychology studies and my educational administration studies - in the field of Education.
"My time at Surrey was a landmark in my life, it opened a window to the world for me and I always recall that time as a precious one in my life."
I had a good academic knowledge in Psychology from my studies in Greek University, but 15 years ago I think we lacked the skills in technologies in education, so Surrey gave me the opportunity to become confident with a foreign language and develop my skills in using technology as a research tool.
Surrey gave me the chance to form my further studies and work in Greece. Since then I participated in conferences in Greece and abroad, travelled to Canada, Australia. I encourage young people to study abroad away from home and get some professional practice.
What aspects of being connected with the alumni network are most important or of most interest to you and why?
I really feel that I am in a position now, after some life experience, to give some useful points of view. I have faith in the study of psychology to form scientists that really can make a difference to the lives of others.
I believe in the qualifications that the University of Surrey provide, and I strongly have the opinion that young people should experience and explore the world that exists outside their home or comfort zone. The knowledge they will get is priceless.
What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?
The advice I would like to give is always to have in mind that being psychologist is a profession of offering, and the core motive is love of the human being and mind.
It is more important to be effective than successful in this work. Never lose sensitivity because this sense is the beacon of light that will connect you to the need that lies in each person. I hope that young students always to follow their dreams, goals and vision the life they want -no matter the challenges or obstacles come their way.
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