Social Work Junior Ada Mi-Sedhi
Even though I honestly do not see it so clearly now, I know that this internship has been and will continue to be a very valuable learning experience for me. As a requirement in a social work research class I was taking last semester, we had an option to attend research presentations, write a research proposal, or volunteer with a research project. I chose the latter option and met my mentor, Amanda Barczyk. After completing my hours on the project, she asked me if I would be interested in this internship where she would be my mentor and I would get to learn about graduate school and basically do whatever we wanted to do. I agreed, honestly thinking that it would mainly serve as something to put on my resume and that it would be an easy class to help boost my GPA - brushing off the fact of actually learning anything. After many attempts to figure out logistical matters and emailing Dr. Cherwitz to finalize the process, we finally signed me up for the course and together planned our 'syllabus' and what we would be doing for the semester.
First, we decided that I would continue in assisting the research project that I had begun the first semester. The research project is about homeless street youth who are substance users and use drop-in services. Though I am not particularly interested in working with youth or substance users, it was good to have hands-on experience of learning how research was conducted. All of the interviews were also very interesting and gave me a more personal look at this population. The information was collected through quantitative and qualitative interviews. My job was to transcribe these interviews - basically listen to the interviews and type out the qualitative section, plus any extraneous information that was in the quantitative section. As the amount of interviews decreased, Amanda briefly went over the coding process with me. We also decided that I should do a lit search for the research with possible hopes of getting my name on a publication. I am not particularly interested in research but to know how it works and why it is necessary is important in being a good social worker and providing the best for clients. I do not think that I will pursue researching in the future, but I am still open if I find an area that really interests me.
The primary reason that I wanted to take on this internship is because I had just officially switched majors from nursing to social work the previous semester. When people asked me, "What do social workers do?" I honestly had no idea of what to say except for something among the lines of "helping people" and declaring that it was not all about CPS. I felt like this was a major opportunity to learn about what social work really encompassed, where it could lead me and what avenues or fields were available.
To do this, we decided that I should interview different social work professionals and faculty in different fields. I ended up only interviewing two working social workers and the rest were faculty. One of the social workers I found was through a connection that my mentor had; the other I had found contact information on the internet. Then, I went through the list of faculty members in the social work department and found faculty whose interests were in different areas. During the interviews I asked about their interests, what they did now, how they got there, and basic advice concerning graduate school. I interviewed about ten people in fields such as mental health, substance abuse, international social work, poverty, and others. This was a really great learning opportunity because I got to see all of the different fields and different views on their job and graduate school. Additionally, I had always heard about how the best way to pursue a career in social work was to continue onto graduate school. Having no information or prior concepts about graduate school, I learned a lot of basic knowledge like the process, whether if I should take a break to work, go to a different school, the GRE, etc. One of the faculty members that I interviewed, said to me, "[whichever] way you choose, you will still reach the same goal - equifinality." I learned that ultimately all decisions depend on the person and there's no specific formula to pursue a career because what I think I would like to do in the future could always change. That thought was always kind of dormant in my mind, as if I had felt that way all along, but hearing somebody actually say it made a difference.
I am 'juggling' school, work, volunteering, and other outside commitments. I usually do well or sometimes better when I have a lot on my plate. However, this semester, my schedule forced me to be physically busy all the time which I think in turn drained me on occasion. All of these things are 'glued' together by what I expect to do in the future - all of these activities point to the future. Through this internship, I got to narrow down what I think I would like to do after graduating with a BSW or a MSW. More precisely rather, I narrowed down what I do not want to do, which is just as helpful. In a more practical way, I think my interviewing skills have improved. My first interview with a social worker only lasted ten measly minutes! I was not prepared and was discouraged when my mentor said they should usually last an hour. From that interview on, I learned more and more how to ask the right questions and build off of them to enhance conversation. Instead of just learning about skills in the classroom, I got to use them in a real setting.
I enjoyed the internship because it gave me the freedom to learn and think about planning for my future. It was more practical and tangible opposed to theories and concepts we learn in a 'normal' class. The hard part I had with it was how self-motivating I had to be. There were no deadlines, no real structure - everything was open to what I wanted to learn - the only benefit I would receive is what I would put into it. I think that the internship is a great experience and opportunity for anyone who is considering graduate school and is also a great avenue for self-exploration as well.