Panthers of ISKL #9 - The Third Culture School Psychologist & ISKL Alumnus Bas Snijder
This week we caught up with Bas Snijder, an alumni student who graduated from ISKL in 2002. A self-described ‘Third Culture Kid’, the Dutch-Argentinian native shares with us his personal story and how he ended up working as a School Psychologist flying all over Western Australia, often visiting remote Aboriginal schools.
"I am a classic example of a Third Culture Kid (TCK), where father is Dutch and my mother is Argentinian, officially I'm a Dutch national, but I have never actually lived in the Netherlands, nor do I even speak the language (much to my dad's disappointment!).
‘However, we do typically speak Spanglish (Spanish mixed with English) at home. I've been an expat literally my whole life as a result of my dad working as an Engineer for Caterpillar.
‘My story of how I became interested in psychology and becoming one, began while I was studying at ISKL during my Junior/Senior year.
‘ISKL held a career expo, and after meeting and listening to a Psychologist at the time, I became hooked. After graduating from ISKL, my family and I moved to Thailand (again, due to my dad's work). This was essentially my "gap year" before moving to Australia in 2003.
‘Why study in Australia rather than the US or Europe? I just preferred the laid-back atmosphere of Australia, it was closer to my parents (for my anticipated trips back home during university breaks), and cheaper at the time. After my dad's retirement, my parents chose to settle down in Thailand.
‘My original "plan" was to become a Clinical Psychologist. However, after completing my Bachelor of Psychology and looking into the requirements at the time to become an Australian Permanent Resident (PR), it became obvious that I wouldn't qualify for PR with that.
‘At the time, there was a push for teachers to come to settle in Australia, and thus I completed my Graduate Diploma in Teaching. My Major was School Psychology, which was enough to register me with the local state teacher registry and meet the PR requirements.
‘The process of applying for PR and waiting for a response from a government department took about two years, so I was kept in limbo and unable to work in my field. However, I was permitted to work as a "Postie" (i.e. Mailman)! That is a funny side story in itself. In Australia, the majority of posties deliver the mail on a small 100cc motorbike. I'm 195cm (about 6'5") tall and weighed about 100kg (220lbs) at the time. Just visualize a big man on a little bike and wearing bright orange work gear!
‘After I got my PR at the beginning of 2009, the way I got into my first job as a provisional school psychologist was also a bit convoluted, particularly navigating the different education sectors - public schools, catholic schools, and remaining independent schools. Finally, towards the end of 2009, I joined the Non-Government School Psychology Service, moving on five years ago when that organization split, to AISWA.
‘I currently work at the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA) with the AISWA School Psychology Service. I'm working as a Psychologist in a district of schools in Western Australia. I have recently been appointed as a Senior Psychologist and been elected President of the Independent School Counsellors Associations of WA (ISCA WA), a professional network of school counselors and psychologists.
‘I love my job as a School Psychologist. It was not what I originally envisioned when I was still a teenager at ISKL or even while studying at university. Again, I wouldn't want to work as a Clinical psychologist anymore. The opportunities that I've been given in my current job role are too good to give up.
‘My current caseload includes 13 schools, ten in Perth, and three in Kalgoorlie, which require a flight to visit. My entire psychology career has seen me travel all over the state of WA. I've visited remote aboriginal schools in Kimberley, as well as some rural and regional schools in towns north and south of Perth. Meeting the needs of the school communities outside of the Perth metro area can be very difficult, given the limited access some of those communities have to certain facilities that I would commonly refer to, or work collaboratively with, on cases. In Kalgoorlie, which is a relatively large town with a good range of facilities, I have a larger "town" school and two small aboriginal community schools outside of Kalgoorlie about 30-45 minutes' drive. My work with all schools is on a "needs basis" rather than on a schedule. There are times when my work with a school is limited because all is quiet (i.e., nothing is going wrong!), but there are times when I'm very busy with visits and consults.
‘I work directly with students, teachers, and parents on concerns for learning (delays as well as giftedness), behavior, and mental health. My role also involves training school personnel in programs such as Mental Health First Aid (Youth, Suicidal Person, and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury) and Team Teach (De-escalation and positive handling of aggressive behavior).
‘I am also developing a personal research interest in the area of problematic gaming for young people and gambling content in video games that young people play. I have presented on the topic locally to other psychologists as well as to school personnel.
‘There were many teachers at ISKL from whom I learned many small life lessons outside of the classroom, but two particular teachers stand out for me: Laura Herrera (Spanish) and Dennis Harter (Math and Volleyball coach). Mrs. Herrera taught my Spanish class from Grade 10-12 and was my IB extended essay (EE) support.
‘Mrs. Herrera always had a genuine passion for helping her students succeed. When it came to getting me to complete my EE, Mrs. Herrera made sure I met her high expectations. For a person who is half the size of her student, she can be scary, but in a good way! I can honestly say my work ethic improved immensely because of Mrs. Herrera. Mr. Harter had an impressive trait that I wish more teachers I work with had, making a subject fun while still being respected as an educator.
‘Not only that, I felt he was able to differentiate (i.e., teach to different learning needs within a class) so seamlessly to all his students. As a volleyball coach, he led by example (i.e., walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk) for which I can only give him the utmost praise. As a trainer to other school staff, I can only hope I can channel some of Mr. Harter's attributes.
‘I have so many wonderful memories and experiences of my time at ISKL, from when I first started middle school all the way until graduation. I remain in contact with a lot of other ISKL alumni, some of whom were only briefly at ISKL.
‘The qualities of a world-leading international school are first and foremost to meet the needs of a diverse and multicultural population. From my time at the ISKL Ampang campus, I had so many opportunities to explore avenues of creativity, physical limits, practical skills, academics, and social skills. I can only imagine and hope that ISKL continues this tradition.”