Keshav Chandran

Keshav Chandran

Master of Arts in Psychology student

Coming to AUT to study psychology was easy, says Keshav Chandran who is an international student from Malaysia and is studying a Master of Arts in Psychology.

“The study of psychology has always piqued my interest, and a postgraduate programme was the natural next step. AUT offered the best fit of programme quality, flexibility, price and location. Given that I started my programme during the pandemic, I had to make a choice that would align with these factors and was thankful that AUT fit the criteria.”

It's a decision he certainly hasn’t regretted.

“The discussions around case studies, research papers and theory application with my lecturers and postgraduate classmates have been some of the most eye-opening discussions I’ve ever had. I learned to speak to different levels of societal problems and understand how to think critically. Discussing issues in applying theory to real-life problems has engaged, challenged and inspired me.

“In addition to my studies, I also represented the AUT Ultimate Frisbee team at the Tertiary National Championships. Training, bonding and working together with teammates was a fun way to get involved with some of my fellow students at university.”

Exploring the impact of social isolation
For his Master of Arts research Keshav is exploring parasocial relationships; how people feel about a figure that isn’t aware of them, like fictional characters or celebrity personalities. His research was supervised by Dr Jay Wood from AUT’s psychology department and Dr Rachel Low from Victoria University of Wellington.

“I became interested in the study of media psychology with social isolation due to COVID-19 becoming widespread. Hearing many stories of people feeling disconnected, lost and alone got me curious as to how the situation might affect society. The lightbulb moment occurred when I was rewatching Friends for the umpteenth time and discovered that I wasn’t the only one finding solace in comfort TV shows or favourite childhood movies during the pandemic.

“In line with advice from my lecturers at AUT, it made sense that my master’s degree thesis would be something I was personally interested in exploring. As this was something that was occurring to people all over the world, it seemed important to investigate if something so pervasive was benefitting us or otherwise.”

Expecting to graduate from AUT later this year, he is hoping to put his newfound research and critical-thinking skills to good use in his career.

“Social development and policy implementation are probably my two ideal avenues of progression, so hopefully I’ll be able to find a place where I’m both learning and contributing to the people around me.”

Supported to thrive
Keshav says what he has enjoyed most about his studies are the flexibility in choosing your research area and the ability to discuss applications of your research.

“It does feel like the student takes the steering wheel in this programme, and while that may have its drawbacks, I think the challenge it posed has provided me with skills and lessons I wouldn’t have developed otherwise.

“My mum says I’ve got a toddler-like curiosity – it would be difficult to find a topic I have no interest in. During my studies, I found myself exploring several different research areas, going from things like morality in artificial intelligence to whether dangerous games are beneficial for a child. There were also moments where I connected two topics that seemed oceans apart, which in turn helped me better understand the big picture. I’m grateful for finding a programme that catered to my wide variety of interests.”

This flexibility and independence also had its challenges, he admits.

“Coming from a heavily structured curriculum in Malaysia, it took me a lot of time and energy to learn to organise my resources. Being a procrastinator, I had never taken on such large projects before and it was definitely daunting at the start. Fortunately, AUT provides plenty of support for students, with access to writing tips, small collaboration programmes to help us stay on track, and services to support our mental health and wellbeing. The lecturers were also patient, understanding and helpful with advice.”