BECOMING A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST (SLP) - ALUMNI PROFILE
Marissa was accepted into SLP programs at UBC, Dalhousie, and University of Alberta. She has decided to attend University of Alberta for speech and language pathology in September.
Marissa has some advice for students who want to study linguistics or go into speech pathology.
Why study linguistics?
I started my degree studying Kinesiology. Within my first semester I realized that a Kinesiology major wasn't for me. I found anatomy interesting but I wanted something that was a bit more relatable. First year kinesiology classes just didn't do that for me.
However, I thankfully had taken a Linguistics elective and quickly fell in love. Anne Rimrott and her passion for the subject bubbled over into me and soon became my own. I love how relevant linguistics is to everyone's lives - we all communicate in some form or fashion! The fact that some anatomy is also intertwined in a discussion of language and the mechanics of speech is an added bonus.
As I took more and more linguistic classes, in which my understanding of Linguistics and the various realms of language (phonology, syntax, language acquisition etc.) was broadened, it became more apparent that Linguisitcs was where my true passion lay. Think about it: tiny muscles manipulating the tongue and vocal folds to form human connection. It’s something we often take for granted, yet it is so intricate and complex. Fascinating!
I truly knew that Linguistics was for me though when my mom voiced an observation: "Marissa - I hear nothing about the rest of your classes, but you're always sharing what you learned in your Linguistics ones." When it's something you're passionate about you want to talk about it. Nothing else did that for me.
What attracted you to SLP?
As I mentioned before, language is complex and intriguing. SLP is a unique area that combines my interest on the topic and has value in touching other's lives for the better.
I remember once someone asked me, "What problem in the world would you like to help solve?" My response was "loneliness."
Speech plays an important role in forming human connection with others - I know this from my experience of going to see an SLP to learn how to talk as a child. It gave me the tools to be able to form relationships of my own. Thus, I am drawn to the profession because I see it as a beautiful way to respond actively to the problem of loneliness, by helping individuals with language difficulties learn the skills to communicate effectively and form human connection.
What advice would you give to new undergraduates who aspire to be SLPs?
Your undergraduate degree is a journey, not just a destination, so be open to new experiences and following your interests. I started off studying kinesiology and finished in a completely different place - beginning to pursue a Masters in Speech Therapy. Often times I was tempted to do things just so that they would look good on my resume. However, looking back none of those experiences I started with that intent were very fruitful or helpful. Instead, it was the things that I found genuinely interesting, like working with individuals with autism on a ski team or babysitting my cousin's kids, that I think truly helped my application stand out. In fact, I started volunteering at a speech clinic before I even knew I wanted to be a SLP because it intrigued me. It was the experiences fueled by genuine interest that helped me discover and reaffirm my passion for the profession. So if you aspire to be an SLP, be open and try not to force it too much. Your current experiences are important too. Enjoy the ride.