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MSc Health Psychology students’ second visit to Sri Lanka

MSc Health Psychology students travelled to Sri Lanka in August, on a trip organised by Coventry University and the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. The Sri Lanka visit enables our students to gain insight into the cultural differences in psychology and healthcare across the UK and Sri Lanka.

cirpDuring their ten day tour Coventry students worked at CIRP delivering lectures, visiting psychological sites, hospitals and counselling rooms. They also explored the local area, including some beautiful temples, and took part in an international conference.

Dr Elizabeth Sparkes, Course Director said

This is the second year that the trip has run and it was a huge success again. It’s lovely to hear the students have gained so much personally and professionally from the experience.

Find out more about students’ experiences below.


Healthcare in Sri Lanka


The most valuable experience I had during my time in Sri Lanka was visiting the hospital in Kandy. After the long drive to the highlands, we spent the morning at the main hospital there. We were given the opportunity to sit in on patient consultations, directed by the hospital’s head Psychiatrist, amongst clinical psychologists and other health care practitioners. Although the majority of consultations were in Sinhalese, conversations were translated and paraphrased so we could broadly understand patients’ situations in each appointment. What was really interesting to learn was that even though facilities in Sri Lankan hospitals are nowhere near as advanced as those in Britain, the way in which mental health is treated is very similar- mental health is still considered a taboo subject and is most commonly treated in a similar way to physical health. Despite practitioners trying to facilitate a shift in treatment and trying to encourage CBT and other behaviour change techniques, patients would rather be prescribed a long list of expensive medications than engage in therapy. After two additional hospital visits, we met with the Psychology staff and two government health representatives at the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. We had a discussion where we compared cross-cultural health care. It was really interesting to learn about different aspects of both Sri Lankan health care and that of China and Singapore as well, where my friends were from.

We went to three different hospitals. It was interesting to see that for mental health patients, the hospital set a large timetable, including meditation, art workshops, music therapy and sport activities. We also joint a consulting time in outpatient clinic and met different patients with different psychological syndromes. It was a very practical experience, which is very rare to have in the UK.

Out and about in Colombo and beyond


Looking back at our time in Sri Lanka, the main thing that comes to mind is how busy Colombo was. We were straight into activities almost as soon as we arrived in the city and every day we spent was packed full of visits to hospitals, lectures and conference days. As valuable as these visits were, my favourite parts of the trip were definitely the calmer moments we spent in museums, temples and landmarks (especially the beautiful sights in Kandy) where we could learn more about the history of Sri Lanka and the role Buddhism plays in their culture. Overall, my trip to Sri Lanka was an amazing experience. My visit to the country was the first trip I had ever made outside Europe so experiencing and learning to respect Sri Lankan culture was eye-opening and has made me want to visit the country again and spend more time visiting cultural sights and landmarks.

The Colombo trip was good. People from CIRP were all very nice and caring. Before we went there, the weather forecast warned that Colombo would rain all the time when we were there. However, luckily, we had all beautiful sunshine when we were out. Colombo is a very busy city with bad traffic, luckily, the little tuk tuk taxi could take us running through the traffic to escape. Once, we went to a wrong place and we thought we couldn’t catch our schedule on time, but tuk tuk just magically took us to the right place in a limited time. We were not late at all. The first day after we arrived, we were excited to try local street food as our first meal and with CIRP people’s recommendation. I think after our first meal, we were kind of thinking maybe we could have some ‘normal’ meal next time, like western food maybe? My favourite part is, I could get avocado juice anywhere!

International conference


The ICAP conference days we had were really interesting. It gave us the opportunity to find out about up to date international research in applied Psychology. We were able to meet with psychologists and researchers from across the world to discuss our interests in Health Psychology. During the first day, we were able to have a conversation about issues and debates in Psychology and compare cross-cultural views of these. I found the workshops on the final day extremely engaging and related well to my own specific interests in Health Psychology. As well as learning about the more practical and academic applications of these topics, they also benefitted me on a more personal level.

The three days conference was a wonderful chance to understand the development of psychology in Asia.


The tour was a great way to mark the end of my masters in Health Psychology, driving my passion to continue research and has opened my eyes to clinical opportunities relating to my interests.

Thank you so much to Coventry University and the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology for granting me with this amazing opportunity and organising the trip of a lifetime!




Students’ experience of Sri Lanka trip summer 2015

Now that they are back with us in Coventry, some of our MSc health psychology students have reported on their recent visit to Sri Lanka.  As their pictures and personal reflections demonstrate, this was a unique opportunity to do some serious work, supported by our academic partners at the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, experience the distinctive culture of Sri Lanka, and enjoy some encounters with wildlife.

Meeting with staff and students at CIRP for learning and networking

Meeting with staff and students at CIRP for learning and networking

“Visiting Sri Lanka as part of the MSc Health Psychology course was an amazing experience. Six of us travelled to Colombo to take part in a 10 day experience consisting of academic visits as well as cultural trips. We were welcomed by the staff at Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, who ensured we were looked after during our visit. We were involved in a number of academic sessions, discussing mental health issues with a panel of professionals, which provided insight into the Sri Lankan culture and its relevance to mental health in the country. We also partnered up and took undergraduate classes where we were each able to deliver a lecture.

The lecture I delivered was on Pain and Pain Management; I outlined the history of our understanding of pain, introduced some key theories and then went on to discuss pain management programmes. I also asked the students to get involved in a seminar activity whereby they got into groups and developed an intervention. I feel this was a key experience for me as I really enjoyed it and felt my confidence in presenting and delivering a lecture has increased significantly. The students were very welcoming.

An eye opening experience for me was a visit to the Colombo mental health hospital and also the private day care facility for individuals with psycho-social problems. Services are still developing and I gained an insight into the need for psychology to become more of a focus in Sri Lanka. Taking part in therapeutic sessions such as expression therapy was also very engaging as this is something I had not been involved in before. From an academic perspective, it was really positive to see that Sri Lanka’s focus on psychology is progressively increasing and to hear that concepts such as mindfulness are also developing is fantastic.

Tourist visits included a trip to a beautiful Elephant Orphanage where we got to ride and bathe the elephants. We also visited a Buddhist Temple, Gangaramaya, which allowed us to experience an important aspect of Sri Lankan culture.  The country as a whole was amazing – the contrast between the traffic and run down areas and the well developed areas was really interesting to see. I would highly recommend this trip, as it was well worth it and one I will always look back on.” [Anjulie]

Experiencing Sri Lankan culture

Experiencing Sri Lankan culture

“Our trip to Sri Lanka was one I will never forget, not only was the trip educational and revealing but it was fun and inspiring. Giving my first lecture on addictions and rehabilitation was an exciting experience if slightly nerve racking. The students attending the lecture were engaging and questioning. The difference between the institution and our university were few, students were passionate about psychology and about promoting psychology within Sri Lanka.  As well as these elements of the trip we enjoyed trips to the beautiful hill country of Kandy where we spent the day with elephants and visiting the famous Temple of the Tooth. A day by the beach, at the old Governor’s house rounded off the trip of a life time.”  [Holly]


Learning about elephants

“My lecture was about stress management; both from an internal perspective (e.g. mindfulness) and an external perspective (e.g. outside agencies delivering stress inoculation training or CBT). I think for me this really pushed me out of my comfort zone and was something I was terrified of doing. But when I got up to talk, I really enjoyed it and I think the students liked and responded positively to my lecturing style. It was a really good opportunity to enhance my public speaking and it also taught me a lot about myself. The place that impacted me the most was the Mental Hospital. I saw big cultural differences in diagnosis and treatment, and saw just how cultural taboos can impact these factors. These cultural inequalities tie in with my specific research interests so this trip provided me with an invaluable insight into this area. I found that speaking to professionals at the University and the psychiatrist at the private day care centre to also be very interesting. Overall, the trip was fascinating and I’d highly recommend going. It was a great opportunity to see how life differs, and also a great international experience to put on my CV!”  [Prabneet]