My departure for Bosnia and Herzegovina is fast approaching. With 3 class sessions at DU, participants in this year’s 8-week international service learning experience in Bosnia have the opportunity to learn about one another and build a historical context around the Balkan Wars and genocide. In-class discussions are often overwhelming, revealing the despair and pain continually endured by the Bosnian people. However, as I personally prepare for an international internship and begin to understand the complexities of the human spirit, specifically the resilience that propels people forward in their lives, I am excited to engage in a learning process grounded in individual and community experience.
From readings, film clips, and images, Sarajevo appears to be a vibrant community, touting a coffee culture, cobblestone roads, and mountain greenery. Though Bosnia’s recent conflict leaves an unsettling feeling and uncertainty of how to tread in a culturally responsive way, maintaining focus on the totality of human experience, a holistic perspective that enables me to understand human experience in all of its relationships and connections, reminds me to be open to and aware of those facets of Bosnian life that maintain and create meaning.
I am excited to begin my learning journey in Bosnia, with local Sarajevans, fellow classmates, and the broader environment. It is an opportunity to explore how I, as a social worker, fit into the international community. It is also an opportunity to grow as an individual, to simply be, and develop social, emotional, and physical connections with my surroundings.
Check out the following Lonely Planet video about Sarajevo:
I’ve been pulled in two directions… I have to balance a tug of war between my competing attractions: international human rights and social work. One day, my thoughts slowly drift into an international world of theory. My brain is twisted in a million ways, forced to conceptualize the complexities of human rights and human wrongs. And then, the cloud that surrounds my thoughts dissipates and forces me to fall to land where community social work practice is my mantra.
It has been difficult to balance this double attraction, this multidimensional gravitation that seems to make my life incredibly complicated and incredibly interesting simultaneously. But…it is a worthwhile endeavor. I feel like my brain is being worked in every way possible, forced to understand the delicate and necessary balance between theory and practice. Who says I can’t have the best of both attractions?
Studying both international human rights and social work has opened my eyes to the diversity of options that lay before me as I enter the professional world. This coming summer, I will have to opportunity to spend two months in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I will have an international social work field placement that integrates my intersecting interests. It will allow me to explore international opportunities for professional development and understand the complexities of NGOs and international nonprofits. Importantly, knowledge from my international human rights education has opened my eyes to transnational migration flows that lead many people to the United States, people with whom I interact daily in my current field placement with a community organizing nonprofit. A global knowledge base contributes greatly to my understanding of social work practice and is increasingly important in our transnational world. Ultimately, I hope it leads me to an academic social work position, where I can work with future students in the classroom and contribute to scholarly knowledge about the intersection of globalization and social work.
A few weeks ago I presented in a day-long conference called Social Work Forum 2011. This was a day designed for current BSW students and others thinking about getting their MSW. There were representatives from several different MSW programs as well as presenters from a lot of different social work agencies. The idea was to talk about all of the many opportunities that are available to MSW students after graduation. I was really proud to be there from GSSW as I was reminded of the ways that students can specialize in our program both in our tracks and certificates as well as in the field. No other school that was there had such an innovate, specialized program. My mother would have told me that it is not good to be boastful but that is how I felt…….maybe proud is a better word. Our students have so many choices that sometimes the biggest challenge is to narrow down the focus.
This is really true in field and we are so aware of it this time of year. In anticipation of students beginning their search for next year’s internship we are working fast and furiously to update our data base. We are also opening lots of new agencies that want to partner with us for internships. This week we opened agencies dealing with conservation social work, animal-assisted social work, and cutting-edge substance abuse treatment.
The other really exciting thing is that several of our students have been accepted to participate in Project Bosnia, a summer-long internship working in post-war Bosnia, specifically Sarajevo. The students are interested in social justice, conflict resolution, restorative justice, human rights and trauma. I am working on setting up their internships so I am in touch with the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and some of the War Crimes Tribunals. In case you’re curious, here are some pictures of Sarajevo.
While some students intern in Bosnia, China or elsewhere around the globe, many others look for placements in rural Colorado, downtown Denver and everyplace in between. Some students live north of Denver in Boulder and look for internships there while others live about an hour south in Colorado Springs so they want to find an internship down there. That way they only have to drive into Denver for classes and can intern closer to home.
As we gear up for our incoming and continuing students to start searching for next year’s internship, it is a busy, hectic, and exciting time in the field education program.
I’ve gotten several questions recently about how we pick our internship sites. There are several ways that agencies and GSSW become partners. Continue reading “How are agencies picked as internship sites?”