Dr Serene Ho
Dr Serene Ho was originally born and grew up in Hong Kong, before leaving to attend University in Liverpool, England to study her medical degree. Having always had a passion for the human mind, Serene naturally focused on psychiatry work and made it her life’s ambition to become a psychiatrist.
Even at a young age, I knew I wanted to travel abroad to undertake higher education and once I finished school in Hong Kong at 18, I decided to make the move to the UK. Studying and understanding the human mind and learning about different disorders was something that always fascinated me, and undertaking an elective placement in Psychiatry helped me figure out where I wanted my career to head.
Although I do have some relatives in the UK, coming over by myself at such a young age was quite difficult. Leaving my family and home behind for a whole new life and culture in another country half way across the world was a big leap. However, as we had to learn English in school and many of the street names and road system are the same, this helped my integration into the UK.
I admittedly didn’t know much about Wales or even the UK before I came here, but I was familiar with the Liverpool football team! So, when I had the opportunity to go to university in Liverpool, I jumped at the chance. I graduated from university in 2019 and I am currently in my fifth year of working. I undertook my F1 year in North Wales at Wrexham Hospital, before going to Cardiff in South Wales for my F2, where I did my Psychiatry placement.
Right now, I am in my third year of core training in Psychiatry, with my current post in rehabilitation psychiatry. I have really enjoyed trying different posts every six months, as it has given me a taster of what I might want to focus on in the future.
When I first moved to and started working in Wales, I was initially pleasantly surprised and have really enjoyed my time here. During my first year in F1, I was even given free accommodation where I lived with all the other F1 doctors. This allowed me to be part of a friendly environment and build a sense of community, creating hugely valuable personal and professional connections. That’s what stood out to me most about living and working in Wales – the sense of community is a big part of everyday life.
During my F2 training in the capital city of Wales (Cardiff), I again found a great sense of community, especially from the Psychiatrists. The doctors there all made me feel very at home and I enjoyed that there was weekly protected teaching time, reinforcing the importance of education in a doctor’s training journey. As I enjoyed my time there so much, Cardiff was a place that I really wanted to stay in, which is why I applied for Cardiff as my first choice for my core training. Which I was lucky enough to be given.
Cardiff is such an amazing place to work and live. I really like that it has a lot of local independent stores, coffee shops and restaurants. It has all the advantages of a big, modern, multi-cultural city, but still retains that unique independent feeling. As I like to go out to coffee shops to read and meet friends, it’s the perfect place for me.
Cardiff is also a great base if you want to go out and explore. You can find modern high street shopping, visit the beach, or go for a trek in the mountains – all within a short drive. It’s also a very accessible and a reasonably priced city with a much lower cost of living than other places in the UK, making it ideal for young professionals.
I had no problem adapting to the Welsh culture and way of life. I noticed that some Welsh names and town names are different to England, but I found it interesting to learn more about Welsh history and culture. As my relatives lived in Wales previously, they have even started giving their children Welsh names, which helps me grow the connection and appreciate my family’s links with Wales.
All the Consultants I’ve worked with have been lovely and give me regular supervision time – always checking in with what I’m doing and making sure that I’m achieving my professional goals. In the future, I hope to move into child and adolescent services and hopefully then progress to become a Consultant Psychiatrist, so I can help impact and improve patient care.
The Psychiatry team in Cardiff have given me lots of opportunity to integrate my opinions into the team. There is also a lot of multidisciplinary team working approach in Wales, which I think is really valuable. Everyone is given a place and a chance to speak about their values.
Wales is particularly good at financially subsidising their trainees, giving us study budgets to attend conferences and even a free attempt at the specialty exams. There are very few places where you can get this kind of support, and Wales is at the top of the list in my opinion.
For anyone thinking of coming to Wales, I would tell them that Wales is definitely a great place to live and work, especially if you are thinking of trying to find somewhere that is reasonably priced to enable you to start a family of your own, or bring your existing family.