Kerstin Kulterer-Prodnik studied Psychology at AAU. At the beginning of 2018 she ventured into self-employment and opened her own practice in Villach. In an interview, she talks about her study days in Klagenfurt, who inspired her and gives today’s students valuable advice for the future!
Can you recall your first week at AAU?
Everything was so big, naturally new and confusing. I was terribly excited and really looking forward to all the knowledge and lectures in which it would be taught. It was definitely amusing to meet all the different people you meet every day at the university. But the best thing was the self-awareness of having to organise everything yourself and suddenly being able to create and live your own completely independent life.
What did you study, and would you choose the same subject to study again today?
Psychology. Today I probably would not study it anymore, because the whole educational situation in this field has changed a lot. I would perhaps study Pharmacology or Microbiology, who knows?
Why did you study at AAU, what were your motivation at the time?
Back then, I really wanted to study Psychology and I informed myself about the various possibilities in Austria. Graz might still have been a city where I would have liked to study, but the Psychology programme there did not convince me. Studying in Klagenfurt had an excellent reputation and of course it seemed very practical to study here. And that is how it came about. I really enjoyed the 5 years of studying in Klagenfurt very much.
How did you land in your current job? How did your career develop?
There were many stages in my career until I finally landed where I am now and the best way to work for me now is to be self-employed. After my studies I immediately joined the clinical and health psychologists and fortunately I also got a very good internship. This gave me a very comprehensive education and gave me access to a large network. Working on projects also expanded my wealth of experience and was also essential for my professional advancement. After the birth of my first daughter, I started working on a self-employed basis. As a project employee I was able to organise my time in a family-friendly way and over the years I was able to take on more and more tasks.
And then you took the leap into self-employment?
Yes, I was able to position myself better and better professionally through a variety of trainings and further education courses, so that I opened my own practice at the beginning of 2018. I was really lucky, because I was able to rent a place in an established group practice in Villach and had a good influx of clients from the very beginning. Thanks to a network of colleagues from various fields I have built up over the years, I have been receiving referrals and requests from new clients, time and again. And so, I now live in Villach and can reach my workplace, on foot or by bike, in just a few minutes. It is an incredible feeling and I am really more than grateful to experience so much happiness and success in my professional life.
What does your work life look like?
In my practice, I have specialised particularly on topics relating to pregnancy, birth and maternity. As a psychologist, I offer counselling in the areas of wish for child, prenatal bonding, prenatal diagnostics, birth trauma and miscarriages and premature births. In addition, I work with the method of clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy, for which I am currently completing my training in Vienna, and treat primarily people with chronic pain, anxiety, panic attacks and psychosomatic illnesses. A large subject area is also child, youth and family psychology. There I am active in parent counselling.
What do you like about your job?
The nice thing is that my professional life is very varied and that a wide variety of people with different problems come to my practice. I manage the appointments myself and schedule the week independently. No day is like the other and so I have always grown a little more in my professional role. You never stop and you never stop learning, and if you want you can take the day off. That is what I particularly like about my job.
Have your studies been helpful to prepare you for your current job?
The studies have trained and prepared me for my self-employment. Having to organise everything myself right from the start and being responsible for my own progress in my studies has certainly prepared me well and equipped me with everything that is important for life as a self-employed psychologist.
In addition, the years at AAU have helped me to develop personally because you experience and learn so much, meet so many different people and always find yourself in a very friendly and manageable environment. You do not feel anonymous and small, like at a huge university with thousands of students.
Have you spent a semester abroad or have you gained work experience abroad?
Yes, I worked for three months in a teaching hospital at the Charité in Berlin after graduating. That was as part of the Leonardo da Vinci programme and an incredibly great and valuable experience for me. I would not want to miss this time and it definitely helped me professionally.
What do you miss from your time at AAU?
The experience of always getting to know new knowledge and new people. The freedom and independence of being able to just live your day to the full. The incredibly great opportunity for self-awareness and self-realisation. The fun and the many parties and meetings with friends around… So many wonderful memories!
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Get to know as many people as possible and above all learn FROM THEM. Never again in your life you will have the opportunity to get to know so many different people and you can only benefit from this. Try out all kinds of things and enjoy the time of studying as much as you can. It is the best time of your life and it will shape you into a completely new person. Be open to new experiences and do not blindly rush through your studies chasing after ECTS credits. Take the time to really internalise what you have learned, to question critically and to form your own hypotheses. Only in this way you can get the most out of your studies and end up being more than just one of many!