I want to help teens with issues of self
FOR Ms Joesaphine Shalene Khanisen, growing up in a bi-racial family was a reality fraught with struggles.
She had found it difficult to relate to her Indian father's traditional stance on upbringing, which often clashed with her Chinese mother's more liberal values.
As a 15-year-old, her relationship with her parents had been so strained and tense that she once ran away from home for two weeks.
But Ms Khanisen, now 25, told MyPaper that studying psychology at the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) changed all that for her.
"I was able to break out of the bubble thinking that everything revolved around just me," she said.
"It was a big step forward for me, learning to understand that people - including my parents - have different opinions and their own values."
Enrolled in a diploma course under the School of Psychology in 2008, Ms Khanisen found the opportunity to work towards becoming a mentor to other teens who face the same troubles as she previously did.
What stood out at the institute for her was its dedicated pool of lecturers "who would go the extra mile".
When a serious asthma attack kept Ms Khanisen away from school for five days during a nine-day-long module, she was worried about her grades, as well as the time and money that would go to waste if she had to re-take the module.
Fortunately, one of her lecturers arranged for her to take the final examination at a later date so that she could still be given a fair chance at completing the module.
"I was so touched by my lecturer's empathy and concern," she recalled.
Ms Khanisen added that the small classes, which comprised about 12 students, helped foster a conducive learning environment where everyone had "undivided attention from the lecturers".
It was also this close-knit community of classmates that spurred her to pursue a Bachelor of Science (in Behavioural Studies with concentration in Psychology), from which she graduated in 2011.
The degree programme, awarded by Oklahoma City University, allowed Ms Khanisen to spend three weeks at the United States campus, as part of the requirements for the course.
Besides getting a feel of studying abroad, the chance to go on field trips - including a visit to the US Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center - was "one of the highest points" of Ms Khanisen's time with MDIS.
"Being able to speak with professionals in the field was such an eye-opener," she said.
"I gathered a wealth of experience out there, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise."
The degree's varied module offerings, taught fully by senior faculty from the university, also cemented Ms Khanisen's passion for counselling.
One module called Introduction to Theories of Counselling, for instance, taught Ms Khanisen that counsellors "don't always have to do the talking, but to let people find out answers for themselves".
Ms Khanisen has now moved on to postgraduate studies, and hopes to become a school counsellor and help teenagers who struggle with identity issues.
She pointed out that with the prevalence of social media today, teenagers probably face threats that are more apparent.
"I want them to benefit from what I didn't get as a teenager, when I felt that nobody understood me," said Ms Khanisen.
"If they're willing to change or play an active role in their own lives, I'm more than willing to run that extra mile with them."
She added: "Knowing that someone has benefited from my help just makes me feel very happy. It enriches my life in more ways than money can buy."
Management Development Institute of Singapore
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May 20, 2010 to May 19, 2014
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