Prior to enrolling in this course, I knew very little about the field of Positive Psychology. Perhaps my biggest misconception was that Positive Psychology focuses on being happy all of the time; this is certainly not the case! Positive Psychology challenges its participants to be mindful and aware of what is occupying their mental space, whatever that may entail. Individuals are then encouraged to take note of the positive aspects of their lives and build off of their strengths, which promotes a life of flourishing and growth.
The theories we studied in this course enlightened me to a type of psychology which was new to me: when undergoing self-analysis, instead of asking, “What is wrong with me?” what if we asked, “What is right with me?” Altering one’s mindset to a less critical perspective enables psychology to become more approachable and can be practiced by anyone.
Throughout the semester, we were given exercises to practice (such as keeping a gratitude journal or performing a random act of kindness) in accordance with the theories we were learning in class. This allowed us to actively engage with the information we were learning and discuss it with one another as if we were discovering the effects of these practices for the first time. This type of learning helped in retaining the information and had notably positive impacts on all of our lives. Throughout the learning and practicing process, the professor, Joanna Skrzelinska, actively listens and engages with the students, valuing each class member’s input. She frequently checked in with us as a class, wanting to make adjustments to her teaching style based on the needs and preferences of all of us. This encouraged us to vocalize our questions, opinions, and/or concerns and created a collaborative environment within the classroom.
I began taking this course in Rome in January 2020, at which point I was very happy to finally be living my dream of studying in Italy after years of planning. Even when I was at my happiest, I was able to utilize techniques learned in this class to improve my mental state. When I had to return to the U.S. two months early due to COVID-19, I was devastated, and this class served as an even greater inspiration in my day-to-day life. In addition to learning about Positive Psychology as a discipline, this class helped me find ways to stay motivated, inspired, and content while facing each new endeavor and hardship throughout quarantine.
If you are remotely interested in psychology, happiness, “living the good life,” how to foster hope, or anything else I have mentioned, I highly recommend enrolling in this course. If you have any questions about my experience in Positive Psychology, do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wish you all the best of luck with your studies!
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Sarah Roth is a CEA Spring 2020 student who studied abroad in Rome, Italy. She is currently a student at Clemson University.
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