Elaine Previl ’14 enjoys living and working in the United Arab Emerates, which takes great pride in its architecture.

Alumna Applies Psych Degree in Abu Dhabi 


Less than two years after she graduated from MCLA, Elaine Previl ’14 was off to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where she’s using her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology to work with children as an applied behavior analysis therapist and case manager.

Previl, who minored in sociology and applied behavior analysis, began work at the England Center for Children-Abu Dhabi just last month.

“I took the position because I knew it would be an amazing way to see the world, encounter people whom I probably would have never met before, and teach children from a different culture,” Previl said. 

Previl decided to major in psychology because of its diverse career choices.

“I wanted to explore my options,” she explained. “I am most passionate about the applied behavior analysis discipline within the field of psychology, which is focused on helping people live better lives.”

As an undergraduate, Previl served an internship at the New England Center for Children in Southborough, Mass. This led to a full time job after graduation, as a teacher to children with severe disabilities.

“My general responsibility was providing 1:1 or 1:2 intensive instruction to students with autism and related disorders,” Previl explained. “I also supported students at their residence in the areas of daily living skills, communication skills, social skills and community living skills.”

Although not part of the Abu Dhabi center’s residential program, she continues this work at her new location. She shares an apartment with two other staff members who also were hired through the Massachusetts-based New England Center for Children. However, 60 percent of the teachers who work at the Abu Dhabi location are from the UAE and other countries from throughout the world.

“I have met so many people from so many countries I had only heard about before,” Previl said. “Abu Dhabi's population consists mostly of ex-patriots, so it creates a very Western feeling.” However, “One thing I had to get used to was the ‘Call for Prayer’ that happens about three times a day; at sunrise, at about noon and then at sunset.

“The call for prayer is only for Muslims who wish to pray, so there is never any pressure to do so. The first week I was here, it woke me up every morning, but now it never does. You can be in a mall, and it just goes off, but you learn it is just a part of life here.”

People who live in the UAE take great pride in their architecture, according to Previl. “They have done an amazing job of demonstrating how a country can be so modern, but still have traditional values.”

She enjoys working with the 4-to-6-year-old children she teaches.

“They’re all so cute. Sometimes when I set up a class to work on something, they give me the biggest smile and all they want to do is play,” Previl explained. “Sometimes I give in. My students have difficult lives and many skills don’t come easily to them. I love seeing my students happy."

When deciding where she should attend college, Previl choose MCLA because of its small school feel. She recommends the campus to others 

“I felt like the world was my oyster at MCLA, because I knew my professors were on my side," Previl said. "I formed strong bonds with my professors whom I trusted as they mentored me. With your professors’ support and help, you can make almost anything possible.”