Joanna Chang

M.S. Graduate Student                                                                                          

Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Western Kentucky University 

Beyond Capstone

There is not one story that captures my Capstone experience, but here’s a summary. At the start of my academic career, I set goals and prioritized to fuse Chinese and Clinical Psychology. I selected Tianjin for its psychological research and proximity to Beijing, China’s Psychology Capitol, fingers crossed for a psychology-related internship. During Capstone, I went to class, had a few adventures, interned, and grew as a person. Although seemingly mundane, yet exciting, I developed a life and lived in China. I fused my studies of Chinese and psychology, built relationships, and made networking contacts in China. It was a daily challenge not just to be linguistically appropriate but also culturally adaptive. Thinking back, I was lucky to have my American cohort as a buffer zone. Amongst “our six” in the cohort, we leaned on one another as a family during our cultural, linguistic, and personal struggles. As I navigated the social scene, ate Norther (Chinese food), and scanned QR codes, I realized that the program’s “immersion” wastraining about living in China; transcending functioning in Chinese. Eventually, I was mistaken for being Chinese. During Capstone, I finally discovered all the Americanisms, Chinese-ism, and Taiwan-ism that intersect, as my idiosyncratic strengthens— not weakness.

As hoped, I was fortunate to the right cross paths to intern with counseling therapist, with Dr. Chen and at TNU’s psychological research and counseling center. Under Dr. Chen’s guidance, I journeyed into Fengshui, the heart of Chinese medicine, moreover, the integral role of culture in psychology. Through supervised counseling sessions, I became skilled in the expressive power of (Chinese) words or  如何表达。All the issues fit within family, romantic, and work relationships – the greatest joys or headaches of the human existence. Surprisingly, I came to understand that mental health transcends coping. 加班文化[overtime culture] and China’s 人情制度[social contract] extend beyond the scope of an individual. I was shocked to learn that an individual’s mental and physical health remains unprotected from the scrutiny of employers. Moreover, well-being is not just personal-- it is also work and one’s environment. Thus, I developed an interest in work-life balance.

Since Capstone, I ‘ve returned to WKU to earn an Industrial-Organizational (I/O) Psychology Masters. I’m still striving to be a part of China’s psychological scene but within the context of work. And I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the experience and wisdom with my Flagship as an alumni ambassador at the Chinese Language immersion. Yes, it’s a bit of a clichéd. Nevertheless, it’s what happened. My command of Chinese language and culture improved as I gained a new perspective. Capstone was the ending for my undergraduate journey and the start to improving work life as an I/O psychologist with an international spin---perfect beginning in an ending.