Nilushka Perera, now a Behavioural Health Researcher, is a former ANC student who was honoured with the Best Academic Performance Award in 2014 for maintaining a 4.0 GPAand was also aw a rd e d a g o l d m e d a l . Furthermore Nilushka’s name was put up on the “wall of fame” in the university. At ANC, she graduated summa cum laude from Missouri Universi ty of Science and Technology (MST) with a BSc in Psychology, bagging the High Achiever Award in 2014 and 2015.
She was also given the title of Class Valedictorian to address her batch at the graduation ceremony which she undertook humbly as a blessing. Later, she studied her master’s de g ree in Publ i c H e a l t h (International Health) at the University of Nottingham, and graduated in 2016 with a Distinction, claiming the Richard Madeley Memorial Award for Excellence.
Nilushka has now been accepted for a PhD programme in behavioral health at the University of Cambridge, and is in the midst of processing funding applications. Nilushka hail from Visakha Vidyalaya where she completed her A/Levels in the Science Stream, wanting to one day help vulnerable communities. Having a surgeon as a father, she felt some pressure to follow his footsteps, but time to time, she changed her mind. During her journey of self-discovery, she understood the lack of mental health and awareness on emotional well-being in the country’s health system – and showed unwavering interest in filling that gap in the system. Therefore, despite receiving the chance to enter a local university to pursue a degree in Bio Sciences, she opted to follow a BSc in Psychology at ANC. Below are the excerpts from the interview with Nilushka…
Q: What kind of work have you been involved in since you first started working?
When I was just 19, I started as a volunteer at Pet Vet Clinic. After joining ANC, I worked as a peer t u t o r o f M i c ro a n d Macroeconomics, Statistics and Psychology – and was later employed as a Project Manager and Research Assistant on part-time basis by Forté which is an organizational psychology firm in Sri Lanka. Just as I completed university, I was recruited by Forté on a fulltime basis. I also continued to be a part-time psychology tutor for ANC. I also completed an internship at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka as a psychology intern in a surgical ward, which wasn’t a very common sight to see! But this helped me build insights and connect with people from different disciplines which all led to me understanding the gaps in our system more and more. Currently, I work for a maternal and child health charity in London as an evaluation and impact lead – and I am involved in multiple freelance projects as a behavioral health researcher.
Q:What made you choose ANC as your higher education partner?
ANC was the only place in Sri Lanka that offered a BSc in Psychology. It was the best solution for people who could not afford to do education aboard. The psychology program that was offered by the local university at the time was just a BA which did not align with my goals as I wanted a science concentration. I had the luxury to choose ANC instead going to a local university. The program structure suited my requirements and the degree transcripts were offered directly from MST. It felt like we were part of the university even though we were based in Sri Lanka. The online libraries and resources were very relevant and useful, especially since I had an interest in research.
Q:What kind of university experience did you have at ANC?
My experience at ANC was one of a kind and it was the best four years of my life. ANC gave me an opportunity to shine. ANC’s faculty encouraged us to challenge existing concepts and how to think critically. We could apply all these international concepts to Sri Lanka and learn where the strengths and limitations were in fostering change. It was invaluable. Being the Senior Choir Leaderin school, I continued to contribute as a performer at university events, and was the President of the ANC Performing Arts Club in 2014/2015. I was also a part of a group of pioneers who led a Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Initiative, and had responsibility over the psychological awareness work. ANC allowed us to launch our initiatives and take it forward to the best of our ability. Most of all, ANC gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and build some irreplaceable friendships.
Q:Has it been easy to receive an offer of a place for postgraduate programs?
Usually, applying for postgraduate studies is not an easy task regardless of where you come from. Nevertheless, I received offer of a place for my master’s degree from 10 universities out of 11 that I applied to in the US and UK. As my degree from ANC has US university affiliations, I didn’t have to complete any English test in the process. I was awarded scholarships from the University of Glasgow and University of Nottingham. I chose the Developing Solutions Scholarship offered by the University of Nottingham as it covered 70% of my tuition fees. Upon completion of my master’s, I managed to secure ajob in a leading child health charity in the UK and gain entrance to The University of Cambridge to pursue my PhD in Behavioral Health.
Q:What plans do you have for the future?
In a nutshell, my future plans revolve around the idea of building a community of people passionate to advocate holistic health in Sri Lanka and collaborate with people all around the world to create evidence based behavioral interventions that could be tailored to include everyone; rich or poor. I chose Behavioural Health for my PhD as I consider it as a main growth point for Sri Lanka. Being primarily interested in health and empowerment through self-care, I have already taken initiatives to work towards designing and implementing projects that aim to empower children, women and minority communities to lead a holistic happy life through awareness and education.
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