International Students as Teaching Assistants: Barriers and Suggestions

MPj04383850000[1]One of the biggest difficulties faced by international students is getting the necessary funding to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. After all the struggles of applying – getting the GRE, TOEFL, letters of recommendation, and personal statements – you’ll likely want a site that will fund you, especially given international students are not typically eligible for financial assistance or loans in the United States.

This can put some international students in a conundrum – between what they are able to do, what they would like to do, and what the department would like them to do. Most international students would like to have a well-rounded experience, developing their practical, teaching, and research skills. At the same time, they are not usually able to work outside of their department, and cannot be funded by federal grants. This leads international students to find departmental funding – which mostly means being a TA.

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Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Reflections of an Orthodox Jew: Entering the Real World

Guest columnist: Chaya Lieba Berger, BA, Long Island University Post

My name is Chaya Lieba Berger, and I am currently completing my first year at Long Island University Post’s Psy.D. program. I am also an Orthodox Jew.

From the moment I began graduate school, I was confronted by my religious identity. Having never before been in a school that was not specifically for Orthodox Jewish women, everything was a transition. Even my name was a challenge, as it is difficult for people who do not speak Hebrew to pronounce. I have noticed that when I introduce myself, people seem to not even hear the unfamiliar sounds, nodding politely before they erase the introduction from their minds. I have always been called by this name, and so adjusting has been an experience, and I am appreciative of my professors and classmates for the patience they have exhibited in learning it. I have also never before been in a co-ed school setting. It has been a challenge to feel comfortable discussing certain issues in a co-ed classroom, working on projects and presentations with male colleagues, and being open to becoming friends with the men in my program.

Recently, I was speaking with my mother about a non-Jewish organization I had been volunteering for and she laughed as I attempted to describe them with: “Oh, they’re normal. I mean they’re regular people. I mean they’re not religious.” When did become the other? When did the people I have spent most of my life surrounded by become different, irregular, and not normal? I am so grateful to be in a program that respects and accepts me as an observant Jew. At the same time, I have become, essentially for the first time in my experience, a minority. And being a minority can be a very “other-ing” experience. At times, the Hebrew and Yiddish expressions that are merely a part of my vocabulary remain stuck on my tongue as I search around for the appropriate English translation. At times, my experience of certain issues is swallowed by the experience of the majority. My world, a world with its very own dress code, its own music, and dating rules far different from my colleagues, has now become the “other” world.

I can say with certainty that this process, thus far, has been a learning experience. It has also, however, been a challenge, balancing my multiple identities as a student, an Orthodox Jew, a single woman, a psychological researcher, and soon, a clinician. I have come to realize that as much as one may try to separate one’s identities, it is simply unavoidable:

Wherever you go, every identity enters the room with you.

In my growth as a psychologist, I attempt to bring every part of myself with me. As I enter the real world, I am integrating an understanding of myself as the other, and I bring my other world with me.

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and was created by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact Heather Dade.

Check out previous posts in this series:

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Mitchell Prinstein

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

mitchThis letter is from Mitchell Prinstein, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Prinstein is the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mitch’s research examines interpersonal models of internalizing symptoms and health risk behaviors among adolescents, with a specific focus on the unique role of peer relationships in the developmental psychopathology of depression and self-injury. He is the PI on several past and active grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child and Human Development, and several private foundations. He serves as the Editor for the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and is an editorial board member for several developmental psychopathology journals.






Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

Hey! I’m you thirty years from now!  I know you must have a million questions, and I’ll try to tell you everything you want to know, but first things first:  yes, you will be over five feet tall.  Not by much, but you finally will start growing any day now!  Great job hanging in there for so long!

Guess what! You’re also going to be wildly ecstatic about your career choice!  It’s going to take a little time and struggle to get to that point too, however.  When you get to college, you’ll get wrapped up in all kind of questions about psychology vs. advertising vs. law, and you’ll end up sending in applications for law school and clinical psychology Ph.D. programs at the same time.  It will be tough.  Everyone will have an opinion on what is best for you – what seems most prestigious, what will earn you the most money, etc.  Don’t worry – the choice becomes pretty obvious just a few minutes into your first interview at doctoral programs.  You end up picking what you genuinely love, and that ends up more important than anything else.

For real – if you choose your path to make someone else happy, you will have a job, but if you choose what makes you truly happy, you will have a passion for life.

On internship, it will start all over again. You’ll start debating whether you want to stay in a med school environment or pursue your dream of a traditional arts and sciences job.  Even after you get tenure, you’ll fret over how much time to invest in your research versus university administration, or even service to the profession.  Your career will be filled with these kinds of decisions and questions.  But that’s the great thing about the path we’ve chosen, I think.  There are so many options, and so many ways to make a difference.  Clinical psychologists can do a ton, and there are many paths that lead to helping others.  Over the next thirty years you will hear so many of your friends in other fields complain that they feel stuck in their jobs, or bored with their careers.  But in psychology we pick what we love, and we can even change over time.  It really is the best job in the world!

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that most of your research will focus on relationships. But it turns out that this isn’t only an important area of study for you.  Professional relationships also will be where you find the energy to keep your career going for the next three decades.  It starts with the two most amazing mentors you can have – Annette La Greca and Tony Spirito.  They will teach you how to work with students, how to give back to the field, and how to meet trainees where they are while encouraging them to reach for more.  You will spend your entire career trying to be half the mentor that they were for you.  Relationships will also be the feature that makes you happiest in your department.  No one wakes up to look at their pay stub, and no one is addressed by their fancy title every day.  What gets you out of bed every morning is the excitement that comes from being part of a team that shares common goals and values each other.  It’s really quite simple, but so often forgotten in too many settings, and by too many applicants who make decisions based on factors ultimately far less important, in my opinion.

Last, you will find that the relationships you create with your own trainees will give you the greatest joy in your career. You will learn from them, you will care for them, and you will find their successes far more sweet than anything that happens to you.  This is what makes you happy at work.

Can I mention just a few more things you should keep a look out for while in graduate school and beyond?

  1. Don’t work too hard. You only get to be in your twenties once in your life, and it’s important you learn to balance your personal and professional demands. You’ll hear this a lot from people along the way, but it will seem harder to execute than you realize. Here’s the key – just commit to yourself. You won’t find it hard to commit four years of your life to graduate school just to fuel your career – let yourself commit a few hours each week for just for you too. Just block it off on your calendar and stick to it. Check out a few improv and acting classes while you are in South Florida – you will like those. Hit the gym a little too while you are at it. You could stand to gain a little weight.
  2. Learn how long it takes to accomplish a task well, and schedule only that amount of time to do it.
  3. You will learn way more about clinical work in one full-time internship year than you will in little bits and pieces throughout grad school, so don’t expect yourself to be so competent until then.
  4. As you finish grad school, the internship application process will stress the hell out of you. But it will give you a chance to reflect on your career and your unique identity as a psychologist like you never had before, and for that you will be grateful.
  5. You are a bit perfectionistic and pretty determined. That’s what helped you keep a perfect attendance record from kindergarten until high school graduation, and it will serve you well in other ways over the next thirty years too. But be warned: you will be surrounded by people who are amazingly productive, accomplished, impactful, and even “famous.” It will be intimidating at times, and inspiring at others. Let me let you off the hook now: you will never be one of them. And that’s OK. It’s not about you. And it’s not about the number of your pubs, or citations, or how many people know your name. It’s about the whole field working together, helping each other, and using science to learn the truth based on each other’s discoveries.
  6. In about 25 years, there will be something called Twitter. Resist it. It is the devil.
  7. There is no one way to be successful in this career. And even for every outcome you may hope for, there is no single way to get there. Don’t get too fixated on any dream. Drift with the tide a little and you may find options that you didn’t even know existed. Not only is this a good way to stay open-minded, but it also takes the pressure off big time.
  8. You will love clinical work, research, teaching, and service. Each takes time and dedication to do well. Pick two you want to focus on. Add a third 10 years later.
  9. Every day during your pre-tenure years, you will repeat the following mantra: Have learning goals, not performance goals. In other words, expect imperfections, and take every failure as an opportunity to learn something new. The pre-tenure years are your faculty-in-training years. You’re not supposed to know how to do it yet. So expect that you will stumble more often than not, and by the time you get to tenure, you may be starting to figure it out.
  10. Related, much of what it takes to succeed as a faculty member is based on skills that are not taught in grad school. Start reading books on management, accounting, mentoring, small business skills, and negotiation now!
  11. Last but not least, you will find that our field kind of stinks at sharing what it knows with the world. This is a shame because there is no scientific discipline that has greater potential to change the lives of humanity as many times a day as does psychology. Think about whether you can help make a difference by helping encourage folks towards public education.

I hope this is helpful advice for you, Mitch! Good luck with the next thirty years, and make sure you take mental snapshots along the way!  Meanwhile, I’m going to go check email (you’ll learn what that is in about five years) and see if there’s a letter from me when I am 76!  I sure would love to learn how the second half turns out!

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series from Dr. Howard Gardner and Dr. Robert Sternberg.

How Can Blogging Make You a Better Student?





Within a few weeks of starting my psychology education, I realized that the way I was attempting to learn and retain information wasn’t very effective, in fact it was terrible. I found myself reading and rereading the same paragraphs over and over trying to force the information to sink in. 

With psychology, I found something that I was genuinely interested in, so it was important to comprehend AND retain what I was reading so that I could make sense of all of these new ideas and concepts. Eventually I found a way that suited me: reading short sections then re-writing the information in my own words.

But then, as I decided to embark on a master’s degree and take on a new placement, things got tougher. Not only was I expected to learn at a much faster rate than before, but also stay on top of new research (which tends to be published at an astounding rate). So I decided I needed a new method to keep abreast of new research, while being able to remember it in a meaningful way.

It started with a log…

The way I discovered what eventually worked best for me was born out of a requirement. At the end of each term, my instructors asked that I hand over a detailed, specific, and evidenced reflective log of what new information I had learned, how I had learned it, and where I found this information.  We called it a “reflective log.” The log was initially a foreign concept for me –and I found out that writing it from scratch a few hours before the deadline was, without question, a terrible idea.

Nonetheless, this process helped me develop a process for reflection that allowed me to grow as a practitioner. (Unless we can be self-evaluating, and self-critical when needed, we’re likely to get stuck in a rut which may stunt our growth.) 

…And ended with a blog

While I agree there is something to be said about handwriting notes rather than typing notes on a laptop, knowing that I am going to publish my notes to the world means that I engage more than I would if I were mindlessly typing as my professor spoke. 

With the creation of a blog, there’s a good chance that your notes, like mine, will become highly (and effortlessly) organized. Rather than having random bits of paper or files on your computer, your notes will be sorted by date and, more importantly, they will be searchable by keyword.

If you’re interested, there is a free guide I recommend that explains how to quickly start your own psychology blog. It covers some of the basics:

  • Setting up your blog from a technical perspective
  • Coming up with the name of your blog
  • What do to if  you run out of ideas for article topics

A way to set yourself apart

I’ll close with this: Having a blog carries many secondary benefits.  The most obvious is preparation for competitive jobs. Here, it’s not a case of wanting to set yourself apart from others, but a case of needing to. As well as the usual work experience and placements, writing your own psychology blog will be a unique selling point for most prospective employers. It not only shows you are passionate about psychology, but it also what you can do with your passion and knowledge.

When the dreaded ‘why should we hire you?’ question comes up, you’ll have a range of answers to give about what your own psychology blog has created for you:

  • I actively network with professionals within the field
  • I keep up to date with the latest research and understand how it informs our practices
  • I am practiced in disseminating high-level information to people who do not have technical knowledge

Those are just a few possible answers that might arise through your experience blogging.

Now, get out there and get started!

Editor’s Note: Marcus Clarke, B.Sc., M.Sc., regularly blogs at, a psychology, science, and health blog that examines the latest research in psychology and science, and explains how findings can impact and help individuals’ everyday lives.

REPOST – Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

From Psychology Benefits Society, a blog from the APA Public Interest Directorate • July 14, 2016 By By Erlanger A. Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown) & Jasmine Richardson

Note: An earlier version of this blog was published on

There have been many changes within the criminal justice system as a means to deter crime and to keep citizens safe. However, research demonstrates that often times men of color are treated harshly which leads to negative perceptions of police officers. The recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have exposed many individuals and their families to incidents of police brutality that reminds us that as a society work needs to be done to improve police and community relations.

In light of these recent events, many people have witnessed these traumatic incidents through social media or participation in marches in their cities. The violence witnessed towards people of color from police continues to damage perceptions of law enforcement and further stereotype people of color negatively. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Geller, Fagan, Tyler, & Link, 2014), the authors reported that 85% of the participants reported being stopped at least once in their lifetime and 78% had no history of criminal activity. What is more concerning is that the study also found that those who reported more intrusive police contact experienced increased trauma and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, those who reported fair treatment during encounters with law enforcement had fewer symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

Read the full article.