Rosanna: UNSW Inside the Criminal Minds (January 2021)

I am very grateful to have participated in the Inside the Criminal Mind programme with the University of New South Wales, which combined law and psychiatry to look at criminal offending, treatment, and rehabilitation. The main skills that I had developed and enhanced during this programme were open-mindedness, curiosity, time management, and organisation. This course delved into some serious, sensitive, controversial, and potentially triggering topics – which required us to approach the content with open minds and non-judgemental attitudes.

The lectures were given by experts in each area, and they challenged our pre-existing beliefs and ideas about criminal offending that we had from seeing often very sensationalised and widely inaccurate media portrayals of such cases. This open-mindedness taught us the ability to empathise with these offender groups and see them as human beings, not as mere statistics or defined by the crime they committed, because a holistic and understanding approach is key to addressing criminal offending. Relatedly, another skill that was enhanced during this programme was curiosity.

I was already very interested in this programme because it was directly relevant to both sides of my conjoint (LLB / BSc in psychology) as well as my current job in mental health, and because forensic psychiatry is not widely available for undergraduate students. Hearing the experts talk passionately about their professions and research only increased my fascination, and despite still having a way to go before completing my degree and being able to go into full-time work, I have been looking into careers in criminal law, family law, and corrections, while continuing to work in mental health. It is also good to keep being curious because new research and new cases are always coming out, and knowledge about these areas will keep developing and evolving over time.

Two more important skills that I used every day during this programme was time management and organisation. As this was a virtual programme with a university in Sydney, I had to stay on top of the time zone differences and technical difficulties that inevitably arose. The time difference did get a bit challenging because pushing back mealtimes and finishing class a lot later than usual started to affect my sleep schedule too, which in turn had me going to work already feeling quite tired. This being a virtual programme also meant a return to online lectures, which I have never really been a fan of, and I often developed bad headaches from staring at the screen for too long – this was quite tough because the days were long, with classes from 11am to around 7-8pm. The things that helped me most in managing these challenges were having a detailed calendar, setting alarms, walking around the house and stepping away from devices whenever we had a break, regularly checking course communications, and having a friend from UoA doing the same course with me.

My advice to future students who are thinking about doing a virtual programme is: do it! This experience was incredibly valuable and worthwhile, and I enjoyed every moment of it. There are so many takeaways from this programme that I have already begun integrating into my work and studies, and it has given me confidence and inspiration for my future career. You may not be travelling away for an exchange, but a virtual programme is more accessible, and you have already developed great skills from a year of Zoom lectures. Go for it and let your interests guide you, because it is honestly worth it.

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