Mira Dumbalska

Where were you studying prior to Pembroke?

I am a visiting student from Brown University, US, where I am studying towards an undergraduate degree in Economics and Psychology. Prior to that, I graduated from the Bilingual Institute Miguel de Cervantes in Sofia. There I obtained a Bulgarian Diploma with a focus on the humanities - Spanish language and literature, Portuguese language and Bulgarian literature.

What degree are you currently doing, and what stage are you at in your degree?

I am in my penultimate year of undergraduate studies. 

What is the biggest/most important thing that you have learned during your time at Pembroke?

Experimental Psychology in Pembroke made me a critical thinker. It taught me to not take information as a given, but to evaluate and examine theories, to question their assumptions, as well as the empirical evidence behind them. As a result, I also became more creative - it is much easier to come up with a myriad of ideas on how to test a hypothesis, what questions to ask and how to investigate them in real life and in the laboratory.

What courses have you taken?

The visiting student program includes all of the Part I options, which offered a wonderful in depth introduction to different areas of psychology. I also obtained permission to take tutorials in Behavioural Economics in Hilary and Econometrics in Trinity. One of our Pembrokian psychology tutors, Rebekah, organized additional tutorials on Experimental Methods for visiting students. During those tutorials we devised a new exciting variation on the rubber hand illusion, a pilot project that was a real pleasure to design and run.

What would you like to do when you finish your degree? Or, if you already have something in place, please describe it!

I would like to pursue a graduate degree exploring how people make decisions, what biases they fall victim to and what factors help them choose more rationally.

What has been the highlight of your time at Pembroke / Oxford?

Lectures offer a great theoretical introduction to experimental psychology, and some of my tutors made a huge effort to provide students with a taste of the practical side of the subject in their tutorials. My cognitive neuroscience tutor organized a meeting in his laboratory to teach us how to use TMS, and to let us experience it. This was (not only absolutely awesome, but also) very useful in terms of helping us wrap our heads around the methodology of the multiple neuropsychological studies using TMS. Another tutor, Pembroke’s very own Rebekah, dedicated a substantial amount of her time in Trinity to teach me about testing participants and writing research papers, and to involve me in her project on synaesthesia. These experiences, immersing me in the world of research, have most definitely been the highlight of my time in Pembroke and Oxford. 

Was there anything that surprised you about Pembroke / Oxford in your first year here?

I was surprised by how helpful and kind absolutely everyone has been. There is a strong community feeling among Pembrokian psychologists across all years. The weekly psychology lunch organized by our lovely tutors creates a space to share experiences and hear about other’s projects, plans and interests. It is an absolutely indescribable feeling to be surrounded by so many bright people passionate about the same thing (to quote one of our tutors, Hannah: ‘I've never seen anyone so excited about a graph!’). Throughout my time in Pembroke both the tutors and the students (even the finalists and the graduates) have been most friendly and accessible, always full of helpful advice and guidance!

Any advice for prospective students?

Be curious and proactive - don’t let you doubts or shyness stop you from asking questions in lecture, proposing ideas in tutorials or exploring new territory extracurricularly!

Anything else..?

All in all, studying Experimental Psychology at Pembroke has been a wonderful experience!