Papoula Petri Romão has learned to spread her wings and fly after picking up a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at the University of Stirling.
Driven by a love of people and an interest in connections with others, the 22-year-old student from Germany had always been fascinated by the field of psychology before arriving in Stirling.
Papoula said: “I was always certain I wanted to study psychology. As a child, I loved observing people and understanding how relationships and group dynamics work. My passion is strongly influenced by one thing: I am a twin. This made me interested in how people perceive the world differently, and how personalities develop. I share everything in my life so I continue to be guided by a love for people and altruism. I wouldn’t be the person that I am, and live the life I do, if it wasn’t for my twin and my family. This motivates me to want to change people’s lives for the better.”
In the final-year of Papoula’s course she carried out a survey about how to improve students’ mental health.
She said: “It felt great to finish university with such a meaningful project that could help other students in the future. My goal after University is to enhance mental health services through innovation and efficiencies and I am excited about what the future holds.”
Papoula used her time at University to gain some valuable work experience, working as a Production System Improvement Intern at GlaxoSmithKline in Worthing, England, as part of the Saltire Scholar Programme.
Papoula said: “During the first two years at Stirling I was rather introverted and not confident in my ability to go after what I wanted. When I got the interview for the Saltire Scholar Programme, I started to realise that sometimes other people see the change in you, before you can, and my confidence increased as each step of the application process passed.
“My internship was an amazing experience. I overcame many challenges, including my social anxiety. I went from being worried about living with new people to being asked to hold the final internship speech in front of all the GlaxoSmithKline and Saltire Scholarship sponsors. It was so rewarding!”
Papoula’s growth was acknowledged when she received the Student Talent Awards Recognition (STAR) Award for Most Outstanding Saltire Scholar Intern.
The go-getter also volunteered for Action in Mind in Stirling, acting as a befriender for young people with mental health problems and founded the Students’ Union’s Cultural Arts Exchange Society.
She said: “When I came to Stirling I did not just want to be ‘student passing by’ - I wanted to settle and become part of the community. Volunteering as a befriender was a very rewarding experience, and it was great to help diversify the student experience at Stirling through my new society.
“I taught Salsa and Samba dances that I had learned through my dad’s Brazilian roots, and other students came to teach skills they knew, such as Japanese martial art Aikido and Bachata – a dance from the Dominican Republic. I’ll never forget the feeling when the society got its first ten paying members!”
Papoula also used the vital support of the Student Hub whilst at University.
She said: “A family bereavement during my first year left me devastated, but the amazing staff and support structures at the University helped me through it. I am grateful for their help. I guess with all things, you need to take small steps and slowly push yourself out of your comfort zone. My University experience has taught me that and I’m thankful for how I have been received and accepted here.
“Studying at Stirling has been a defining time in my life. I now know what direction I want to take my career, I have made great friendships and built a strong connection to Scotland.
“Where I grew up, in Hamburg, swans’ wings are cut so they are unable to fly. I can see myself telling my grandchildren how, on one rainy Sunday evening on campus, I found out that swans can fly.”