Spotlight: Cathy Lin, BA
The Department of Linguistics is proud to celebrate with Cathy Lin as she ends a remarkable undergraduate career at SFU, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Major in Psychology, Extended Minor in Linguistics) in June 2017.
Cathy made the most of her years at SFU, serving as the Linguistic Student Union (LSU) President, volunteering as an English as an Additional Language (EAL) Peer Educator and Peer Coach, mentoring students with ASD as part of the Autism Mentorship Initiative, and working as a Research Assistant in the LangDev Lab. For her significant contributions to SFU, Cathy has been awarded the Tim Rahilly SFU Campus Community Service award, which recognizes outstanding unpaid service to the University community and/or the community at large, leadership and volunteer work.
As Cathy graduates, she looks back on her time at SFU and considers how the choices she made and the experiences she had contributed to her successful application to the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) program at UBC.
On choosing to study linguistics
In my first year I allowed myself to take whatever courses interested me. I was searching for a field that fueled my curiosity and I found it in psychology and linguistics. In my first semester I took LING 110 - The Wonder of Words with the late Dr. Paul McFetridge, which led me to take LING 220 - Introduction to Linguistics with Dr. Anne Rimrott, and I was sold. It was so interesting to take apart something we use every day and see it from such an analytical perspective. It was like realizing something that had been in front of me this whole time! I felt like I began speaking and hearing things with a new perspective.
On choosing a career path
I first learned about Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) as a career option from my introductory linguistics professors. I was interested in pursuing SLP because of the intersection of my interests in both psychology and linguistics, and I felt I could actually apply my interests and education to make a difference in the world. In Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 I did a co-op placement in a school working as an Education Assistant and the children I worked with attended weekly speech therapy sessions with an SLP. I was inspired by the work that the SLP did with these children and hearing the SLP talk about her work helped me decide that the SLP path was a perfect match for me. Following my co-op placement I continued to volunteer with the school’s SLP for two years, which was a great experience that confirmed that SLP was really something I wanted to pursue.
On working in the Language Learning and Development (LangDev) Lab
I was lucky enough to meet the LangDev Lab director, Dr. Henny Yeung, when he did a guest lecture in LING 350 - First Language Acquisition. I expressed interest in helping out with the developing LangDev Lab and also mentioned that I was a co-op student looking for a placement. Dr. Yeung was extremely accommodating and I was able to work full-time at the lab during Summer 2016 under a USRA as a self-directed co-op work term. In the following semester, I continued to work as a research assistant for the LangDev Lab, and also completed Directed Studies project with Dr. Yeung.
I think working in the lab definitely made my SLP application stronger. I feel that showing grad schools that you’re involved in the research community, have your own research interests, and have dedicated time to learn about and actually do research, allows them see that you are an able consumer and contributor to research.
On applying to graduate school
I applied for two SLP programs – the UBC and the McGill program.
Since I decided to pursue this field about a year and a half prior to applying, I began thinking about my references early on. I worked hard in my classes and in my volunteer work to show people that I was a dedicated and driven person, and I tried to make connections with people along the way. I’m not going to lie, I hated asking for references. Asking for a favour from someone you only have a professional relationship with is tough! But I found that if professors know that you are pursuing grad school, they pretty much expect you to ask them for a reference. It’s important to ask professors as early as possible, and if the professor doesn’t know you very well, provide them with your resume or your Letter of Intent (LOI).
The LOI for UBC has a 500 word limit, so it’s important that every sentence in the LOI is substantial. At the same time, this piece of writing still needs to flow, so it’s a battle to be concise and direct without being choppy. Having been a co-op student, I drew on my experience writing cover letters and I found it really helped because co-op trains you to sell yourself in an honest way. But I also made sure that the LOI was personal and real, which I think is essential. I highly recommend that applicants read Katelyn Eng’s interview and tips for writing an LOI.
While preparing to apply for SLP I worried about having that “special something” that would make my application successful. In my mind, successful applicants all had something extraordinary about them that related them to SLP like needing speech therapy when they were younger or knowing a relative or close friend that experienced brain damage or a stroke. I felt like I was at a bit of a disadvantage because I didn’t have this kind of personal connection with the SLP field. But I came to realize that you can make your application personal by simply showing the school how passionate you are about pursuing the SLP field. I think every applicant needs to ask themselves, what at their core drives them to pursue SLP because that will be their special something.
SFU’s Department of Linguistics has amazing faculty and staff. Rita Parmer, our undergraduate advisor, is the sweetest and most helpful person ever. Her patience, guidance, and encouragement played a huge role in my successful degree and application to the SLP programs. Dr. Murray Munro, whose passion for linguistics is infectious, both helped me confirm my decision to pursue SLP and supported me by being one of my references. I am also so lucky and grateful to have met Dr. Henny Yeung who has been my supervisor, supporter, imparter of linguistics and research knowledge, fellow lover of indoor plants. He provided me with a chance to work independently and take responsibility in a research project while always being present to offer guidance and support. I’ve learned so much from working with him, and I can’t thank him enough for all the opportunities he’s provided for me. I couldn’t have done this without him.