Dr. Rosita Anna Ernst completed her diploma and doctoral studies in Psychology at AAU Klagenfurt. Back then, she was involved with the ÖH (Austrian Student Union) for a long time, also as chairwoman. Today she is team leader at Caritas and runs her own practice in Vienna as a systemic family therapist and child and youth therapist. In this interview she tells us why “being different” was a great benefit for her, how her studies prepared her for her current job and how to cook Roman food in the university’s canteen.
Can you recall a nice anecdote from your student days?
At some point I took a course called “Roman Cooking” with a professor of history. It was really great. At the end of the course, we cooked stuffed eggs with coriander and beef with raisins in the cafeteria.
How did your career develop?
After finishing my studies, I moved to Vienna and initially worked as a supervisor for mentally ill adults. Then I wanted a professional change and applied to Caritas as a psychologist for mentally ill seniors. In the course of this work a book was written and thanks to this book I was invited by Sigmund Freud University of Vienna to give a seminar on gerontological psychotherapy.
After completing the psychotherapeutic specialist course, I wanted a professional change and found a job as a team leader, at Caritas again.
What does your work life look like?
My responsibilities include the professional guidance of the staff, reporting and administrative tasks. When I am not at Caritas, I work in my own practice. More than two years ago I finished my psychotherapeutic specialist training and now I also work as a systemic family therapist.
Are there situations where you think back to your studies?
Yes, many. I often think back to what I learned at university years ago. Especially the courses in group dynamics help me to perceive the dynamics in teams or in families and to look at it objectively. Every role is only a role and can change.
Why did you study at AAU, what were your motivations back then?
Klagenfurt was the ideal city for me to study. It is neither too big nor too small. I think I would have felt very uncomfortable at a larger university, because I would have had a hard time finding my way around. The institute in Klagenfurt is small and you know the professors and many of your study colleagues, which I liked very much.
Would you choose to study Psychology again?
If it was the course of study again, I would. I looked at the curriculum recently and noticed that it is not the same anymore that it was back then. Of course, many professors have already retired, many course contents have disappeared, but the biggest difference is that the study programme has been split into bachelor and master. I think a lot of important things got lost in this split.
Would you choose to study at the University of Klagenfurt again?
Yes, I would like to study at the University of Klagenfurt again. In Vienna I work together with psychologists from the University of Vienna, naturally. That is when you realise that as a psychologist from Klagenfurt you are “different”. We had different focuses. I think this “being different” was a great benefit for me.
What was “different”?
The high practical orientation. Whenever I talk to young psychology students, they tell me what they have to learn. These inputs often miss how it is in practice. We also had more internships to do, which was not a disadvantage. A good theoretician is not yet a good practitioner.
As a psychotherapist, I also always remember professor Menschik’s lecture, how she showed us the different methods of systemic theory in practice. Two years ago, I started the additional training as a child and youth psychotherapist and one year ago the additional training as a manager. In both curricula it became clear once again how practical and work-oriented the university had already prepared me for my professional life.
Is there anything you still own from your time at AAU?
Yes, I still have my orange student ID card and of course all the psychoanalytical literature that was needed for my studies.
What else shaped you during your studies?
My time as chairperson of the ÖH! At that time, I believed that many things could easily be changed. However, I had overlooked the fact that you can only change something if you have good, creative, far-sighted and also critical staff. I think I experienced a lot of positive but also negative things, which is helpful to me now.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Look to the right and left. There is always more than just studying.