I’m officially one half of an MSW! As finals week come to a close and summer arrives, I have began to reflect on my GSSW experience so far. Although I have learned a lot of facts and details about social work history, theories, policies, and research, this hasn’t been the most important part of my education. I learned the most about myself and about “real” social work through my experiences at my internship. I could probably go on for pages and pages discussing all of the valuable skills that I have developed, but I will stick to the most important…
I learned the importance of balancing my life and making sure there was enough “me” time in there. I am the kind of person who enjoys having a lot on my plate–when I have any kind of down time, I get bored. However, I learned how important self-care is and that I need to make time to just relax so I don’t get burnt out too quickly.
The concept of “person-in-environment” was re-enforced daily at my internship. Basically, it is important to understand everything that is going on in your client’s life in order to treat his or her behaviors accordingly. Often times, a behavior has nothing to do with the specific situation, but may have everything to do with an issue the client deals with at home or in school.
I have also learned how to process my feelings better–at my internship I learned a lot about examining why certain children’s behaviors triggered me in certain ways. This has been an area of personal growth that will make me a better social worker.
Overall, I realize that my thought process has changed over the course of this year–I feel like I am truly starting to “think like a social worker.” Although I have learned a lot, I know I will learn even more during my second year. I am looking forward to next year’s classes as they are much more focused on a subject matter that I am passionate about (high-risk youth) and I can’t wait to start my new internship in the fall!
I wish you all the best of luck and hope you have a fabulous summer!!
This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a unique activity with my internship. I intern with Girl Scouts of Colorado. Since Denver is the capitol of Colorado our local Girl Scouts have the opportunity to participate in numerous events that involve our political atmosphere. Last Saturday they participated in “Earth Hour.”
Xcel Energy sponsored our event and offered each Girl Scouting family to bring in their old incandescent light bulbs to trade out for Compact Fluorescent Bulbs that use less energy and create less waste. Also at the event our local Council staff (myself included) hosted a table where the girls could fold paper cranes to send to Japan in support of the recent tsunami and earthquake that happened March 11th. Each girl was able to make a few cranes to send off and then also received a instruction sheet for how to make more if they choose to.
It was powerful to be a part of this event – mostly because I got to witness young girls being involved in important issues like energy conservation and international support efforts. If young people make a habit of things like this early on, they are more likely to continue doing it in their future. Yay for empowering young girls!!
As social workers, we learn about the importance of advocacy and empowerment. We are called to work with and serve those most marginalized and oppressed in our communities, but often forget that as students and professionals, we must also advocate for our own needs and learning opportunities. We each come into the profession with a unique set of goals about how we hope to learn and impact change, and often, in order to achieve those goals, we must be able to advocate for ourselves to create a constructive and challenging learning environment. Here are some advocacy tips:
Critically assess your own needs and have a firm grasp over your personal and professional expectations.
Work on creating open and transparent relationships with professors and field instructors/supervisors in order to allow for respectful and valuable dialogue.
Develop relationships with peers and colleagues to not only challenge and learn from one another, but also create a healthy learning environment in the classroom.
Maintain confidence in your own capacity and push and challenge yourself to build the networks needed to reach your academic and professional goals.
Although I have always known that I wanted to go into the field of social work, it seems like my choice in concentration within the field changes on a weekly basis. Coming into graduate school, my ultimate goal was to run my own non-profit that brings service-learning into the schools and into after school programming, specifically targeting high-risk populations of youth. During my first quarter of school I constantly went back and forth between the clinical and community track. I am passionate about working with high-risk youth so part of me wanted to focus on the clinical high-risk youth track, but another part of me wanted to learn the skills I would in the community track because they would be extremely beneficial to my ultimate career goals. By the end of my first quarter, I had settled on the clinical track because I want to have a clinical internship (specifically school social work) next year and not a community internship.
Throughout this whole decision process, I had also been considering participating in the animal-assisted therapy certificate. This past week, GSSW provided information sessions on the different certificates so I decided to attend the animal-assisted session. Even though I thought it was definitely something I wanted to do, I found that I was in it for the wrong reasons. I think that involving animals in therapeutic programs is a really interesting concept. The classes required for the certificate are very focused on the science behind animal-assisted therapy and it just isn’t something I’m interested in learning about.
I have been working with a family at my internship this year that has dealt with a lot of trauma and it has become a passion of mine, so I also decided to attend the information session on the interpersonal trauma certificate. After listening to the director of the program talk about the certificate, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. In order to complete the certificate, your second year field placement needs to be focused on working with clients who have experienced some kind of trauma. I have decided that I really want to try out school social work next year and, luckily, it looks like there are plenty of school sites that offer trauma related social work internships. So, I decided that when I grow up, I want to be a school social worker focusing on interpersonal trauma!
To all of you who are still undecided about what you want to concentrate your studies on, please don’t worry about it!! Your first year at GSSW is all about figuring out who you are and what you are passionate about, so enjoy every second of it and take advantage of all of the learning opportunities you can. I promise you will figure it out (even if it changes every week for your entire first year)!!
As a first-year student at GSSW, I am enrolled in a foundation seminar course that is intended to bridge our field experience with classroom learning. This week, we had a guest presenter speak to us about crisis intervention and his experience with different types of intervention strategies. He spoke about threat assessments, suicide assessments, and abuse (domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, elder abuse, etc.). He not only provided us with a packet of information and resources regarding these topics, but he also shared first hand experiences dealing with crisis situations. As somebody who works with high-risk youth, this lecture was very pertinent to my field work and my future plans as a social worker. I definitely think I am now better prepared to deal with crises in the field (or at least know where to go when I have questions)!
My field placement experience has changed drastically since first quarter. The work I did at my adoption agency during my first quarter seemed mundane and pointless. I rarely felt like the was contributing to the agency or being of value. That’s now all changed!