Anna-Maria Kwiecien

'I love embracing challenges in this evolving and impactful field...'

  • Anna-Maria Kwiecien

Studying towards a Master of Speech and Language Pathology

With strong values in communication as such an important aspect in life, Anna-Maria is working towards becoming a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist in French and English, with a career devoted to making communication accessible to all.

‘Working as a Student Speech-Language Pathologist allows me to use my creativity and continue to expand my learning from ongoing work with diverse clients with diverse needs. Given the fact that no two clients are alike, brings me to continually learn about different assessment and treatment methods, and provides me with enduring excitement.

‘This is a challenging and rewarding career, and I love embracing challenges in this evolving and impactful field in order to provide the invaluable skill of communication that makes us a unique species. Helping others regain and/or develop their communication and swallowing skills brings me the utmost satisfaction knowing that the slightest achievement greatly impacts their social participation and most importantly, their identity.’

Growing up with a sibling whom had a learning disability that made communication difficult in social situations, Anna-Maria saw how much support from both professionals and family gave her more confidence and a brighter lease of life.

As such, Anna-Maria’s initial career goals were inspired to advocate rights for those with communication disabilities. She studied an undergraduate degree in Political Science and French Language and Literature, with courses focused on Disability Studies, but later felt that her career aspirations didn’t match with her particular interest in languages.

‘I began researching careers that share my three main passions: languages, disability, and advocacy; and fell upon Speech-Language Pathology,’ she says.

Anna-Maria began volunteering work with Parkwood Institute in Ontario, Canada, working with geriatric patients struggling with communication from illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease and stroke. These cases gave her increased enthusiasm around clinical treatment for dysphagia and swallowing, and language acquisition such as articulation, literacy, and phonology.

‘With this gained experience, I formed a keen interest in early intervention practices. The variety of work settings available for a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) pleased me to know that I will be working in an ever-changing, flexible and continuously refined field.’

After considering universities globally for her postgraduate studies, Anna-Maria decided to travel from Canada to New Zealand for master’s study at UC.

‘My interest in UC’s MSLP programme related to its faculty of researchers contributing to current developments in the field, including studies on how certain rehabilitation techniques affect swallowing outcomes in patients who suffer from strokes. I knew that learning in a low student-to-faculty ratio at UC would help me achieve this goal so that I can make a difference in communication sciences as an SLP.

‘I enjoy working and studying in partnership with my professors at UC. My professors are very approachable and knowledgeable, which made me feel comfortable in asking for help and seeking to extend my learning outside of coursework requirements. They also demonstrate a personable quality that makes me feel more like an equal, which helps support a respectful clinical team approach towards the common goal of achieving a better quality of life for all clients.’

Clinical placements through the programme includes working at UC’s on-campus Speech and Language and Hearing clinics. This involves assessing clients of all ages and language disorders, and identifying intervention methods to help them improve.

‘I believe this format, along with the programme’s emphasis on interprofessional collaboration, provides the best background for my career development,’ she says.

She is also a Class Representative for first-year students in the MSLP programme, supporting fellow students and lecturers in developing stronger communication and feedback within the courses.

With her lifestyle in Canada spent mostly among the ‘unmatched wilderness’ of Ontario, Anna-Maria’s spare time outside of study is spent in the New Zealand outdoors.

‘Any free time of mine involves either hiking or water sports. Living in Christchurch accommodates these passions of mine as I can do just a short trek in Port Hills on a Sunday morning and then head over to the Sumner Beach later in the day for some swimming/surfing. I also like travelling to Arthur’s Pass to do some longer trails, visiting Waipara Hills, and just doing some local outings with friends to the City Centre’s cafes and shops.

‘UCSA’s Borrow-A-Bike has also helped me with getting to and from clinical placements. It is an easy-to-use service that is not only free but also helps me to naturally include physical activity into my rigorous school days.’

For her first year here, Anna-Maria is staying in Waimairi Village campus accommodation, to help settle into UC life and meet other students.

‘Waimairi encourages me to create a strong sense of self within an easy and comfortable living environment,’ she says. ‘The house is well thought out for student’s needs, with a spacious kitchen and lounge room for my flatmates and I to catch up with each other and hangout. The Residential Assistants are genuinely helpful and reliable, and show true care about my experience.

‘Being a smaller community, Waimairi allowed me to make close friends with people from all over the world! I am able to learn from and with my friends from Waimairi, and together, grow and connect.’

Forming connections with people is one of her pieces of advice for anyone wanting to study and work in Speech and Language Pathology.

‘Search for an experience working with these types of clients. The key is to familiarise yourself with the populations and gain social experience. It would also be beneficial to assist with research activities for professors in the MSLP programme. This will help you connect with the staff and gain an advanced understanding of Evidence-Based Practice, which is used in all clinical interventions.’

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