Cynthia Lizbeth Matildes Mariscal, MA Refugee Care, University of Essex
Why did you decide to study your course at Essex?
The University of Essex was the only institution that offered a programme as specific as the MA in Refugee Care with opportunities to not only learn theories but also to put in practice what is learned in the placement.
What did you enjoy most about your studies?
My favourite modules were the Context of the Refugee Experience and Therapeutic Care for Refugees. I also enjoyed the lectures provided at the Tavistock Clinic and the opportunity granted to do a placement at the Refugee Council of London.
Can you tell us about your current job, what is a typical day?
I started working in Médecins Sans Frontières, (Doctors without Borders) which is an international humanitarian medical organisation.They provide medical-humanitarian aid for refugees, asylum seekers, deportees and immigrants in general. My role is to provide therapy sessions and counselling to the patients in need. I’m currently based in the city of Mexicali, on the border between Mexico and the USA.
A typical day starts with an early meeting with my team, to plan and discuss any important information about our cases. After this, if I don't have any patients in the morning, I'll go to the Mexico-USA border checkpoint (Mexico side), where people come daily to deliver their documentation and begin their asylum process, it is also where people are deported back to Mexico. Here I usually talk to people and give them information about the services offered by MSF and I focus on the importance of mental health care. Sometimes it is necessary to provide psychological first aid there, and other times people come with me back to the office because they are interested in having a medical consultation or going to a psychological session. Back in the office I usually see patients individually or in family sessions and in some cases I work together with a doctor or social worker.
Depending on the day and schedule, I visit some of the shelters for migrants, where my job is to do psycho-educational activities and health promotion. Sometimes we visit migrants' meeting points, such as plazas, parks and train tracks, and there we provide information on health services and general information that may be useful. My work day is never boring or monotonous, on the contrary, it is always full of difficult and rewarding moments.
How relevant is your degree to your job?
Very relevant. My job and my main interest is to provide mental health care to the migrant population and refugees. Despite having a background in therapy, this master's degree changed my understanding and opened my mind to other theories and ways of working - I deeply appreciate this and see it positively reflected in how I treat my patients.
What advice would you give someone looking for a similar role?
Be patient, because sometimes getting a job in a NGO can take some time, it can be very competitive. I would also recommend looking for opportunities to volunteer, there's always help needed and you can learn a lot from other people.