Gillian Amber Vista
Name: Gillian Amber Vista
Hometown: Glendale, California
Undergraduate school and program: California State University (CSUN) – Bachelor's in Communication Science and Disorders with a Speech-Language Pathology emphasis
Graduate school and program: California State University (CSUN) - Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology
Expected graduation year: 2023
How did you come to learn about speech-language pathology?
I first learned about it when I was in high school. However, my journey started off when I went on a retreat with my family met other kids because I was a kid back then. There was another family whose two kids went through speech therapy. One was hard of hearing/deaf, so she communicated via ASL (American Sign Language}, but she was also going through speech therapy. Her brother was going through speech therapy as well.
I had no idea what speech therapy was at the time. I wanted to either be a teacher or a voice actress. My family actually told me about the job, and they said, “Hey, you know that speech therapy is a job. It deals with speech. You like to talk. Maybe you could consider it.” So that was when I was first introduced to it. But other than online research, I didn't really know much about it until I went to college and did a little bit of research on the SLP (Speech-Language Pathology) program at my community college.
I eventually transferred to the four-year university, but when I was at my community college, I actually took communication studies as my major there because there was no speech pathology.
Why did you believe this field was for you?
In the beginning, the reason I thought it was perfect for me was because I liked to talk, so speech, and then it seemed to combine my two interests of voice acting, where speech is involved, and teaching, where I would work with someone, help someone’s life improve.
Now when I began taking classes, I started to learn speech therapy is not me speaking; it's me listening and observing. It's to help people communicate. After that, I started to realize that I thought this field was interesting for me because of all the different fields, all those niches inside. I could go into academia and research, or I could focus on a specific population or a setting. Also, there is that flexibility of working across different settings: hospital, school, private practice. As I'm getting older and learning more about the field, it's just my love for working with others.
I think speech is the best field for me because I'm interested in literally everything that I've learned, swallowing to neurogenic communication disorders. So, with that interest and passion in mind and my passion for working with clients—individually or in a group setting—I feel like this field really allows me to grow and be someone that I can be and someone that I've been aspiring to be ever since I was young.
I want to add that what really intrigued me was the fact that we can also do international work depending on what we want to focus on, whether it be feeding and swallowing or just providing more speech materials in other countries, and I feel like that is so helpful. That has always been something that I've been interested in, so I'm so glad that I'm part of this field.
What is something you're still adjusting to within your graduate program?
The major thing right now is the clinical in-person adjustment. Just transitioning from an online platform to an in-person platform—so, making time to clean up, set up, and then transition. Another thing that I'm adjusting to is definitely the time management that goes along with the clinical transition, but time management in the sense of when something new arrives or a new situation occurs, how can I be flexible and adapt and incorporate that while also making time for classes, family time, and self-care.
Definitely time management is the other thing I'm adjusting to right now, and then I believe the last one is documentation. You have SOAP notes, you have lesson plans, and on top of that, don't forget your treatment plan or plan of care and summary of progress. You know, how do you track data and then make sure you interpret it correctly into a SOAP note?
What is something you either love in grad school or are good at?
It’s just working and collaborating with everyone. So, when I get to talk to the client or the client’s significant other or family members and provide a parent education and also learn from them and learn more about the client. And then also collaborating with either group members or other clinicians on helping each other or finding the best method in either group or individual therapy. I really enjoy doing that. I really love it. I feel like that section of education, collaboration/community outreach—that little niche—I love it, and I feel like it's something I'm good at because it's more social. It's more connecting with people on a personal level rather than an objective writing, third person POV (point of view).
What’s something you enjoy doing outside of school?
On my free time, I like to watch TV shows or movies with my family. I'm also interested in budgeting and finances. Right now, I've started investing in my Roth IRA. I definitely recommend others to start looking into that! I also enjoy researching and learning more about sustainability. I'm not perfect, but I believe starting somewhere is better than not trying at all. At the end of the semester, I hope to play video games on my Xbox, read more books, and spend more time with my loved ones.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself as a certified speech-language pathologist working in an area and niche that I enjoy and love. I'd probably be working two part-time jobs with an equal priority in my mental health and social life. On my free time, I would either volunteer, work on research or a book, or focus on community outreach. My life would include all of my interests: speech-language pathology, sustainability, investments, and those that I cherish. Hopefully, I will also be close to settling down! 😉
What advice do you have for others interested in entering a speech graduate program, but they are either doubtful or having difficulty entering a speech program?
My number one piece of advice is it really depends on who you are. Know who you are and what you want. If you're someone who needs a confidence boost, find ways to grow and increase that confidence, whether it be taking leadership roles or accomplishing things like making a small business or drawing art.
Whatever makes you feel good about you to increase that confidence and really just feel like you have everything, that you are worth something, and that you have value and can bring something to the speech program.
Another thing is to gather that community and support. Find people who support you, are proud of you, and don't bring you down with negative thoughts. They don't have to fake it and are like, “Oh yeah, you're totally going to get it.” You don't really need that energy, but a community of people who say, “you can do this,” who are just there with you every step of the way. That can be loved ones; that can be friends. That can be online people you meet through a Facebook community group.
And then the last thing that I would say is enjoy the journey. I know that is so cliché, but honestly, sometimes we're focused on this rat race of “I have to finish.” By the time we have to do this or that, we don't really get to enjoy life. We don't get to enjoy the fact that outside is beautiful. Let me go to the park. And you see people who are going through different challenges or kids playing around or the leaves from the trees. That's all part of life, and we should appreciate every bit of that. We should appreciate the struggles. We should enjoy the good moments, and we should enjoy things that aren't just directly related to the program.
So, no matter how long it takes to get there, no matter what challenges you have to go through—I'm not saying diminish that—but incorporate that because every bit of that is going to help you become a better SLP. Even if it's not exactly related, that will help you understand more of your clients’ and patients' point of view or their family, where they're coming from. And it could also help with emotional regulation or how to work with clients who may be a little bit harder to redirect or work with. Every experience matters.
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