Allow Your Passion To Lead The Way

Hello, my name is Kristen Boyle and I am a graduate student studying experimental psychology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along with being the typical Netflix-watching, coffee consuming, study abroad adventure-taking college student, I am also legally blind. I am diagnosed with a condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia, basically irreversible damage to my optic nerves. The vision effects will vary, but for me, this means I have light perception in my right eye and acuity of about 20/200 in my left eye. Essentially, I struggle reading small print, seeing details at a distance like street signs, and also have trouble navigating with impaired depth perception. Although my eyesight presents challenges, I work hard to meet any obstacles head-on, so I can succeed in school and in my future career.
For the longest time I had no idea what major I wanted to go into, but there was something about psychology that just felt right. I decided to enter into college for psychology after taking a psychology class in high school.  I knew I wanted to go into a field that would keep me interested, challenge me, and allow me to make meaningful contributions to the world around me. Psychology seemed like the perfect fit. Although I did not know what I wanted to do in its broad field, I did know that my classes would interest me. Looking back on high school, I had psychology as the first class of the day at 7:30 AM and it was probably the only class I never dreaded having to go to first thing in the morning. My teacher was engaging, but more so than that,= I actually enjoyed reading my textbook. I found it fascinating, and still do, how much we still do not know about the inner workings of the human brain. There is still so much more to learn to better understand behavior and the relationship between the brain’s consciousness and its influence on the health of the human body. 
After I entered into college, the more classes I took, the more I loved psychology. At first, I assumed that if I were studying psychology I would have to become a therapist, psychiatrist, or teacher. However, I soon began working alongside one of my professors and discovered the field of doing research in experimental psychology. Research allows you to ask questions about the world around you and devise a plan to try to answer them. For example, for my thesis I wondered if the media could be used as a tool for good. I’m looking into whether there’s a way it can actually help alleviate the negative stigma associated with mental illness, so people will be more likely seek help. When something is wrong with your body, you don’t feel embarrassed going to see a doctor; the same should be true for those seeking mental health services. 

I graduated with my Bachelors in Psychology in May of 2016, but I had a unique senior year. Upon graduation, I had already completed one year of graduate school. My university offers a 5-year combined Bachelors and Masters degree program in experimental psychology. I applied to the Masters program in my junior year, and after being accepted, took Masters level classes and presented my Masters thesis proposal in my senior year. One year later, I am now a full time graduate student in the program taking classes and finishing my thesis after collecting my data this past semester. I plan on graduating this coming May. I highly recommend going into the psychology field, but keep in mind that you will need to take a few statistics and biology classes, and most careers require a master’s degree. If like me you too are visually impaired, my advise to you is to not let it stand in your way. Follow your passion, whether that is psychology or anything else.