Vonnie Ho has travelled a winding road in her pursuit to becoming a counsellor, juggling family expectations and changing courses. Working part-time in the hospitality industry whilst studying a Bachelor of Business exposed Vonnie to a diverse range of individuals and hearing her colleagues and customers past experiences, traumas, and family history ultimately affirmed her decision to become a counsellor. Vonnie decided to commit to this dream in 2019 when she commenced her Master of Counselling at Excelsia College. Fast forward to May 2022 and she enjoyed graduating with her cohort at Wesley Mission Conference Centre!
Vonnie was attracted to Excelsia because she wanted to learn counselling theory not only from a clinical world view, but also a Christian world view. ‘The diversity of the community in Excelsia College gives us the opportunity to make friends and connections with students within not only the counselling school but also other schools. At the same time, the small classes allowed us to build strong relationships with our peers. The staff members such as student support and the chaplain organise a lot of college activities, chapel services and Bible studies which create a caring and supportive environment for the student’s learning in college.’ As a Christian, Vonnie enjoyed getting involved in the College’s Bible study and also answering questions from her classmates who were exploring Christianity. ‘I felt very encouraged by my peers and also enjoyed the time to pray together and reading God’s Word,’ she explains.
During her time at Excelsia, Vonnie was trained with different counselling skills, had placement experience in the field and received one-on-one confidential counselling on campus as part of her course. ‘This gave me a great opportunity to foster my personal growth as a counsellor.’ Now, Vonnie is juggling different jobs and exploring her future career in counselling within a variety of different work contexts. This includes working with immigrants, using her multilingual abilities to relate to clients in English, Chinese and Malay, as well as working in one of the biggest psychiatric hospitals in Australia, with an Employee Assistance Program company and also running her own private practice.
One of Vonnie’s favourite quotes is by Henri J. M. Nouwen which says, ‘Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of freshwater from the depth of our pain.’ Vonnie explains, ‘I trust that each and every experience of our life shapes us for who we are and they are all different gifts of God. Sometimes we may have difficult feelings around, and that’s how it makes us human, the experiences in joy and trials walking with God.’ Vonnie values the importance of therapeutic relationships and in providing a safe space where individuals feel heard and supported with life’s challenges.
Studying during the beginning of the pandemic was both challenging and unsettling as classes moved online and students and staff didn’t know when they would be back on campus. Despite this, Excelsia College aimed to provide practical support to staff and students doing it particularly tough, something Vonnie is grateful for. ‘Even though we were unable to meet physically, I could still see how the staff and students were willing to support one another. The students also came up with a food donation drive for their friends who were financially struggling. I remember how a lot of our lecturers checked in with us, knowing that some of the students were struggling, which still warms my heart to this day.’
Part of Excelsia College’s values are to exemplify the life of Christ in our commitments, actions and in our relationships, and it is this community which Vonnie describes as ‘Christlike, inclusive and authentic’. Vonnie is reminded of God’s faithfulness, both in the good times and the bad times, also reflected through her favourite Bible verse Romans 8:28 which says, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ This verse reminds me again of how God is faithful to each and every one of us, whether in good times or bad times. We can trust that God still loves us even if living in difficult times or uncertainties.’ Vonnie is now able to integrate her faith into her work as a counsellor and offers faith-based services to clients.
If you want to study counselling from a Christian perspective in a nurturing, supportive environment, why not explore our Graduate Diploma of Counselling and Master of Counselling? Alternative pathways are available if you do not have the required study.