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Cliff Chen

Cliff Chen gives us an enjoyably literary account of his thoughts on life as a student at the University of Edinburgh, and his subsequent career.

Name Cliff Chen
Degree Course Psychology BSc (hons)
Year of Graduation 2006
Cliff Chen

Your time at the University

My first memory of Edinburgh was standing in the Grassmarket, overshadowed by the castle on its glowing rock in the night sky. I was somewhat awed, I didn’t know a single soul in the city. But within a few weeks, life in Edinburgh took shape around new friendships and localities: hangover breakfasts at Favorit, Medina-nights. And alongside that, lectures and study.

Undergraduate Psychology at Edinburgh is gruelling, the architecture of the course vast and challenging. Academic knowledge, after all, is the reason we come to university. But the real commodity is the subtle integration of that knowledge-structure into your existing personality, the product of which ultimately drives all our future impressions, choices, and responses to life. In this respect, a university course is only the scaffolding for a wider, more personal type of learning; each lecture, each friendly debate at a party, even your private reflections while you drift over the rain-drenched cobbles of George Square, all invisibly fold themselves into your becoming.

In final year, I joined the Edinburgh Movie Production Society. EMPS ran a competition for new script-writers and, after reading my entry, they withdrew it from the competition, offering to fund and produce it themselves. So amid the chaos of final year, were two days spent on-set watching my words come to life: actors, lights, even a trundling dolly. My biggest regret was losing contact with those film-makers, because I never got to see the finished product. But in a way, that’s fitting; in art there are no finished products.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

After Edinburgh, my first Assistant Psychologist post was in Neuropsychology at the John Radcliffe Hospital. That was when I fell in love with Oxford. Not unlike Edinburgh, its architecture and education are outstanding. But what really resonated within me was that feverish hum of a city overrun by fellow perfectionists. Three years later, I emerged as a Clinical Psychologist.

The job is fast, relentless, and rewarding. But after the freedom of student life, full-time work can feel as though your personal life has been shoved into retirement.

Cliff Chen

The job is fast, relentless, and rewarding. But after the freedom of student life, full-time work can feel as though your personal life has been shoved into retirement. Now more than ever, I feel the need to make my evenings and weekends count for something, searching for activities that will add notches on the post of self-actualisation. Even as I plan to embark on yet more specialist training in Neuropsychology, I seek out those growth edges again, as ever, attempting to weave counter-strands to my professional development.

In October 2013, I won the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, and with it came a huge confidence-boost: score another notch for those early mornings spent hunched over my desk, laying down words as painstakingly as fuses. And so I continue, keeping as many strands alive and adding as many notches as I can against the final count. In the end, we all need things to strive for, ways of making our mark in life.

Alumni wisdom

Pay attention - now is the horizon of your becoming.