Social Work Pre-Grad Intern Carol Leung

Carol LeungSummary of Internship Fall 2008

The pre-graduate internship program has been of value to me throughout this semester. In the beginning of the semester, I did not know exactly if I wanted to go to graduate school for social work or psychology. This program had given me great opportunities to learn more about what social work is and has given me hands-on experience on conducting social work research.

The most rewarding part of the program was that I received a travel grant to go to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting in Philadelphia with my mentor. Also, I had the opportunity to go to this meeting with another IE student which gave me a chance to talk to him about why I should go to graduate school for social work. There were many topics and discussions that we could attend throughout the weekend and therefore I could not attend all of them. However, since the other IE student was there, we were able to share about other social work issues. Both of us share the same interest in certain topics; therefore, we split up and went to different conference sessions. By the end of the day we ended up discussing more than the topic areas we participated in and learned more than we anticipated.

My interest in social work lies in immigrants, refugees, and displaced populations. I went to hear about professors and speakers talk about their research in these areas. My favorite session was regarding the research topic about day laborers in our country. I learned that these individuals who obtained work through the day labor sites came to this country for opportunities but ended up suffering because of being lonely and having terrible experiences adapting to the culture. Day labors reported abuse, injustice and discrimination as well. Many times day laborers are frustrated that "their own kind" would trick them and not give them money after they have worked for them. They feel that other people, other than people who speak their language, treat them fairly.
Another session that I found interesting was about how refugees seek asylum in the United States. The research has made me understand that services for these individuals are limited. As a result, social workers need to be educated to understand how the law works when working with refugees in our country. Refugees or asylum seekers need advocates on their behalf for services because they are fearful of their involvement in human trafficking. From these research findings, I learned that social workers can provide support and advocacy for those who have less power but live in fear. The conference has motivated me to pursue my interest in serving immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds.

Beside the conference, I also had the opportunity to volunteer my time with Austin's Enterprising Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Troop 1500 in the School of Social Work with Dr. Darlene Grant. I learned from this experience that children whose mothers are incarcerated are leading lives that are hard, but with social support especially from social workers, they have a lesser chance of being incarcerated themselves. My role as a volunteer is to show social support to the children. The older children are encouraged by volunteers to apply for college so that they can increase their opportunities to pursue their dreams. I had one Girl Scout who wanted to become a veterinarian and she wanted to apply to community college. I told her that her grades were sufficient to apply to colleges such as A&M and she could apply for many different scholarships and receive financial assistance. I have helped her find scholarships and she is in the process of applying. I feel that these girls are capable of pursing their dreams, but just need social support to tell them that they can accomplish their goal. These groups of young girls just need someone to tell them that they can aim high. I find that being able to encourage girls to pursue their dreams is something that satisfied me during my volunteer experience.

My mentor, Patricia Cody, has also given me the on-hands experience to explore research in the area of child welfare. I am helping her in her evaluation with AdoptUsKids as well as healthy marriages. Basically, the evaluation measures the factors that determine both the successes and barriers in adoption and foster care among parents. In this research project, I also coded qualitative data from interviews. This procedure can be challenging because as a coder I had to understand the broader perspective about the function of a family, not just the partial view of a studied problem. As a coder, I had the chance to read about families whose lives were affected by not being able to go through the adoption process because the policies in agency and government placements were harder than expected. This experience has made me understand that the system of the child welfare is actually more complex and the process of adopting is long and ongoing. Many parents want to adopt a child but because of many barriers they are unable to fulfill their goal.

The IE Pre-Grad internship has helped me understand what I want to do in the future with my master's study in social work. Being able to be trained to work on a research project has made me realize that my passion in social work will also be related to social service research and implementation. I want to become a social work researcher to find out the major mental health issues affecting Asian immigrants and their children so that effective interventions can be planned and implemented. My career goal is to become a social worker who will promote cultural awareness among diverse populations, especially Asian immigrants, regarding the different rates of culture adaptation between parents and their children.