Social Work Pre-Grad Intern Ashley Vehslage

Ashley VehslageI'm a dreamer. I have known this about myself since I was a little girl. So in choosing to pursue a degree in advertising, I thought I was making the only logical choice. That is until I actually got into it and realized that my dreams went much deeper than an ad campaign or a logo on a sign. No, advertising didn't quite fit. But after 3 years of College, how do I change my mind now? My curiosity of something different and unsettled feelings of my current chosen path wouldn't quit nagging until I explored them.

And then, unexpectedly, I stumbled across the IE program's website. 'What a curious concept,' I thought. It's like I was Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and this class was my discovery of the rabbit hole. I had no idea what to expect, what was to come, or how to go about things but there was an excitement and anticipation unlike any other. I had to jump. 'Down, Down, Down' I went further and further into the exploration process until finally THUMP! I somehow landed myself into this strange wonderland. And that's where the story began.

Little did I know, this experience would change my course and life in so many ways. From day one in meeting with my mentor, Kat, my curiosity and questions about the world of social work were overwhelming! How in the world was I going to fit all of this in over the course of one semester! I wanted to experience everything fully; every project, every detail, and every challenge I could that would help give me a better idea on which way to go next.

'Organize all of those thoughts and excitements you have and we'll come up with a plan.' Said my mentor.

'Organize my excitement?' but how!? This was first of many skills I took away from this semester in IEP. To write out a contract at the beginning of all of the things I wanted to explore, directed my excitement in a constructive way. I also was able to prioritize and be realistic about what I could and could not accomplish in 1 semester (Yes that is a new concept for me!) Usually I will take on way too much and end up not accomplishing half as much because im too overwhelmed. Instead, I have developed a new respect for outlines. I even did one for this paper! Little did I know, I had unlocked the door to a whole new world where structure would be a recurring theme.

And then Kat said 'Research.' I shuttered at the thought of entering that dark and twisted forest. Would I really have to attack that labyrinth mess if I wanted to pursue grad school. It all seemed so analytical and binding in my mind.turns out that dark forest is where I would learn so much about myself and where my strengths could lie in social work. In having to research people to interview I felt like I was in a room of a thousand doors. Somehow, through researching histories and backgrounds, only the right ones opened up and I met some faculty members that I relate with so well! Who knew! More than that though was this discovery of where all of my questioning might fit in. Apparently that's exactly what researchers do question everything. In going through the researching process and seeing different side of it, my view completely changed of what research was and what my relationship with it was. It is like an outlet for all of my questions. To figure out why this is the way they are, or why things aren't the way they aren't. Make sense? Kat even said she thought by all of my questions I might have a qualitiative mind. I'd say that door fits. After going through this part of the program I have become even more excited about graduate school you mean I get to do stuff like this all of the time!?

What was probably most significant for me and my time in the class, was the chance to look back and reflect on each step of the adventure. Usually this was accompanied with some sort of follow up or follow through on my part to tie ends or thank contacts I had made. To be able to get down ALL of my thoughts after a short chunk of work was crucial for me. My mind races a mile a minute with questions and thoughts and scenarios of 'What Ifs,' but to be asked to get them all out once a week and share what was going on with someone else helped me steer the adventure along. With so much excitement rushing through me after my interviews and research experiences, there is no way I would have been able to sum it all up at the end. Reflecting in the midst of the action made it all the more influential and also helped me to see how much graduate school was looking more and more like the next stop on the adventure path. I was taught the value of stepping out and following through with things that cause me anxiety. Interviewing deans and highly achieved professors of a school and profession I literally knew a miniscule amount about, was terrifying. After pushing myself to do it, I realized what opportunity lies behind the face of fear! Each challenge was a new adventure and usually a new relationship and contact that will help me along on my next adventure.

All in all, I felt this semester was a whirlwind of lessons and experiences that I never saw coming. Never would I have imagined taking a class that didn't count towards my major during my 4th year all the while debating changing majors as well. But because I followed my curiosity and with the help of the program, I now have changed majors without losing hours towards my degree plus have a whole new direction and adventure ahead of me. Who knew this rabbit-hole could lead me in the direction I needed to be going, or teach me the lessons crucial in getting there. As of now I have a completely new perspective of myself as a dreamer. My dreams go deeper than what I thought and my questions even deeper. There is so much more out there than what I had imagined, and the things that made me anxious before now excite me to move! The IE program has helped me see past the beaten path and enabled me to think outside the box I created for myself. I will be applying confidently for graduate school in Social Work to dream how the world will be different. And to think, I was going to limit myself to billboards and magazine spreads.