Vivi Hua grew up in a family that emphasized traditional Chinese values: being as rich, intelligent, and accomplished as possible. There were a lot of pressures and psychological barriers – her upbringing in Taiwan later pushed her to choose ‘best school’ and ‘best college’ over her passion.
She ended up enrolling in a sociology program. That’s when she saw that she enjoyed the practical components of learning and discovered that psychology would be better instead.
After that, Hua became a research assistant at a hospital in Taipei, where she conducted studies and worked alongside the chief of child and adolescent psychiatry.
“After gaining clinical experience, I was then able to apply for a psychology degree in graduate school,” she said. “I attended Yeshiva University, a well known Jewish university in the New York metropolitan area.”
Today, the degree is used to help those who are facing the same stresses and psychological barriers that I did. We caught up with her to find out more about her journey from international student to altruistic psychologist below:
Were your psychological barriers the main reason why you wanted a degree in this field?
I started my undergraduate studies in Sociology at National Taiwan University. At that time, there was a lot of focus on going to the best school and then the best college. So, it wasn’t very clear to me what exactly my interest was.
During my undergraduate studies (with graduation approaching), I saw myself as a more practical person. Sociology is very theoretical, so I started taking psychology classes and felt much better.
Since English has always been preferred to students for psychology licenses, I had to build some credentials. This led me to work as a research assistant in a hospital in Taipei (the capital of Taiwan). There she conducted studies and worked alongside the Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
After gaining clinical experience, I was then able to apply for a psychology degree in graduate school. She attended Yeshiva University – a well known Jewish university in the New York metropolitan area.
What prompted you to study at Yeshiva University and the United States?
It was mostly the program I got which was a straightforward Ph.D. track that was accredited and accredited by the American Psychological Association. As for the United States, at the time (I’m not sure now), it was still the place for clinical psychology.
The country has a very good medical and psychological system.
– Doctor. Vivi W Hua (@Dr_Vivi_Hua) May 9, 2017
Follow us through the process of obtaining a psychology license in New York.
It is more about finishing your training program as you need to complete the practical training. After graduating from college, you also need to complete a year of postdoctoral studies with supervised hours.
Fulfilling the licensing requirements means that there is a certain number of supervision hours that must be met. For international students, the only difference will be finding an employer for a visa.
How did you help international students in the US overcome psychological barriers? What are some common misconceptions?
With 10 years of practice as a well-established psychologist, I offer therapy and help individuals overcome psychological barriers. I often meet international students who come to me at their breaking point – severely depressed, on the verge of harming themselves or having suicidal thoughts.
It all comes from worrying about failing their classes and getting expelled from school. They stress this because they are on their student visa so if they fail in school they have to leave the country. There is a lot of mental struggle behind this.
These students usually do not contact me directly. Usually their friends, parents, or school psychologists do this. The challenges they face accumulate and start from the moment they enter school.
The biggest psychological barriers that international students (particularly students from Asia) face are culture shock and fear of speaking. In Asia, students are expected to listen out of respect for their teachers.
What is your advice to international students on how to settle into a school in the US and oOvercoming their psychological barriers?
I ask my students to prepare questions in advance in order to keep up with the pace of the class and their peers. Another thing I encourage is raising their hands and asking questions to interact outside of the classroom setting as well.
It is a common situation for my students to experience their first time away from home and their families. Not only do they have to deal with learning how to be independent, pay bills, and do chores, but this is also on top of their academic responsibilities.
Besides cultural and linguistic adjustments, students deal with emerging adulthood challenges that lead to psychological barriers. My advice to them is to seek validation of their experience and take the time to develop new skill sets.
Also, tell them to get out of their comfort zone and express themselves more in public. It is important to develop good relationships with peers and professors to create the ultimate support system and also hone communication skills.
What about you? What would your advice be to yourself if you could go back in time?
I would have liked someone like me to connect with him at that time. Now, American schools offer orientation systems to provide hands-on experience of what to expect in school.
It really benefits students who work with a professional who has walked the path of similar struggles.
What is most important to you: job satisfaction, salary, social life, or work-life balance? why?
During my training as a psychologist, I had to undergo personal therapy. Therefore, from a very traditional Asian family, this achievement and salary was an outside pressure that was portrayed as significant.
Gradually I become more attached to myself in personal needs and desires and I believe that life is much more than those external factors. When I went to the best college in Taiwan, I was not happy.
If there is never enough and your goal is to focus only on the outward sights, how will you ever find balance? I encourage students to take a more balanced approach in different and important areas of their lives.