Alumni Q&A: Samantha Yang is applying what she learned as a psychology student to her career in teaching

Samantha Yang

Samantha Yang, BA 2018, was naturally drawn to working with youth after teaching them music, skiing and other outdoor activities. After double majoring in Psychology and English Literature—and with her teaching experience—she was compelled to return to UBC to complete her Bachelor of Education degree in 2021.

Now Samantha is putting her combined UBC degrees to use as a high school English teacher; a career she is a passionate about. One day she hopes to merge her dedication to teaching, her love for the outdoors, and her athletic ability to become an outdoor educator.

In a Q&A, Samantha shares the value of a psychology degree, who inspired her, and how UBC has shaped her academically, professionally, and personally.

What is your current career?

I have found passion in my career in teaching. I specialize in teaching high school English, but during my career, I have gained experience teaching other subjects such as Physical Education, Music, and also Psychology courses. I also work as a ski instructor in the winters and as a hiking and outdoor guide in the summers. My goal is to fuse my love of teaching and the outdoors together and work as an outdoor educator.

Why did you choose to study psychology at UBC?

Funnily enough, I did not set out to major in Psychology or English as a first year. I actually wanted to do Engineering and picked Psychology and English as my electives. Turns out, they were my most interesting courses! After my very first Psychology 101 class with Dr. Catherine Rawn, I immediately thought, “I need to take more of these classes. How can I change my schedule to accommodate this?” I found the material so interesting and I was instantly hooked on it. After changing my degree to Psychology and English, I started thinking of ways to apply my studies into my work. I was happy to find that the information and lessons I learned from my Psychology courses served me well in my own day to day life.

When you were a student, was there anything or anyone who inspired you?

I definitely think I was inspired by many of my professors. Their passion for the material and ability to teach and communicate it effectively was really contagious. I loved going to class as a student when I got to know my professors and learn about their work. I felt that Dr. Catherine Rawn from the Psychology department really helped give me my start in psychology. I had her for about half of my degree in classes Psych 101, 102, 217, and 218. Her enthusiasm and sense of fun helped inspire me to find those same qualities in my own profession. Another psychology shout out to Dr. Lillian May whose material in her Applied Developmental Psychology class I still use as a teacher. Having such great professors and teachers in my life has definitely helped inspire me to become a teacher.

In your experience, how does the value of a psychology degree translate into the real world?

A psychology degree challenges you and helps you develop both hard and soft skills. Hard skills include things like understanding and evaluating research, critical thinking and analysis, and testing and posing your own hypotheses. But it also gives you a bigger perspective on different reasons for why people behave a certain way or how people become the way they are. I found that very helpful in a job where I work with many students with varying family backgrounds, cultural contexts, and ways of thinking. Psychology is the study of human behavior. So, in my opinion, studying psychology can make you a better human.

In your own words, how has UBC shaped your career?

UBC has been a huge part of my development academically, professionally, and personally. I completed both my degrees here and they both helped me learn more about subjects and disciplines that led me to my career. My experience at UBC was a positive and transformative one. It helped me acquire the necessary skills and experience to become a capable and knowledgeable teacher. I loved my classmates and friends that I made at UBC. I often learned a lot from other classmates and also was inspired to work harder and go further in my course material. A few qualities that I have acquired during my time at UBC include, perseverance, work ethic, and responsibility. All of these traits have helped shape who I am as a teacher and a person.