When she was in junior college, Ms Yuvarthana Krishnan dreamed of pursuing psychology at university, and to use her skills to help others as a social worker. She did not get into her desired course at a local university, but she was undeterred. She researched and explored psychology programmes at other universities in Singapore before eventually deciding on James Cook University (JCU).
"I discovered that JCU offers psychology courses that matched my requirements," the 23-year-old says.
JCU's presence in Singapore - having its own campus in Sims Drive - is a draw too. Ms Yuvarthana has always wanted to complete her studies locally so that she can be with her loved ones. "Studying locally would also result in less financial strain on my parents than if I studied abroad," she adds.
Another major plus for her was that in Singapore, JCU is also awarded the EduTrust Star by the Committee for Private Education, an agency under the SkillsFuture Singapore, which signals a high level of quality assurance.
An exhaustive programme
In 2016, Ms Yuvarthana enrolled in JCU's Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Studies programme. She found the programme very comprehensive and during the course of her degree, Ms Yuvarthana delved deeper into the scientific study of psychology.
The programme's modules covered most of the skills that she wanted to acquire. One of these was social psychology, the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, and implied presence of others. "What I learnt has significantly aided me in managing my personal adversities, and given me a greater understanding of how and why individuals express themselves the way they do," Ms Yuvarthana says.
Apart from completing the degree programme, another highlight was Ms Yuvarthana's active involvement in a volunteer programme at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Such programmes, put together by JCU, aim to provide its students with the chance to apply their knowledge and gain practical experiences necessary to excel in a career.
As part of the volunteer programme, Ms Yuvarthana and her fellow JCU students made weekly trips to the IMH, where they spent three hours engaging with patients. "These visits truly made me understand the importance of being open-minded and empathetic to people around us," she says.
Solving issues with patience
Ms Yuvarthana's knowledge in the field of psychology, coupled with practical experiences she gleaned at JCU, helped to prepare her for her current role as a crisis response specialist at Airbnb.
Ms Yuvarthana landed the job in 2019 through LinkedIn. "After several rounds of interviews, I got the job. During the interviews, I displayed core values and skills that resonated with that of Airbnb and the role I applied for. This included the ability to understand and respond to various crises," she says.
Ms Yuvarthana's role involves assisting hosts and guests with issues they face during their stays and experiences, fact verification for effective case resolution, and processing of any follow-up claims.
"With my counselling skills as well as psychology knowledge, I can handle each unique situation with utmost calmness. Most importantly, I have the ability to listen to and understand their issues without imposing my personal values and beliefs," she says.
Ms Yuvarthana credits her good training in psychology to her lecturers at JCU. She is particularly grateful to senior lecturer Dr Smita Singh, who taught her for a couple of modules. "She never failed to hear me out whenever I had hiccups completing a project or assignment. Every lecture and tutorial with her was lively and engaging. There was always a personal touch with every theory she introduced to us and I always looked forward to her lessons," Ms Yuvarthana says.
Ms Yuvarthana hopes her story inspires other A-level students to not lose sight of their goals even if there are obstacles in their way, and to seek out alternative paths to their dreams.
In the future, she also hopes to get involved in global efforts to help disadvantaged groups meet their basic needs and thereafter, have their life opportunities expanded.