Saturday, May 19, 2007

My New Job

After all of the excitement of graduation, Noche de la Familia, and my vacation to Puerto Rico I had to deal with process of starting my new job. Two short days after graduation I started my new job as a program coordinator for a low-cost/no-cost community based health outreach program for children. I am happy to report that I survived the first week unscathed. I will not sugar coat my first day on the job experience. I had the foresight…thanks to my grant writing and program design professor at SC, to read the contract that our program has with the County, so thankfully on the first day I already had an understanding of the program. However, nothing could have prepared me for my first staff meeting at 9:00 a.m. only an hour after I started my new job. Immediately when I was told at 8:45 a.m. about my first staff meeting I began thinking about what my leadership style is and how I can best convey that in my initial meeting with my new staff. Then I suddenly became ever grateful to the school of social work for making me take my Leadership class, and of course I perused my Organizational Behavior material to refresh my memory. Our first staff meeting went really well. The only odd thing was that I had two people ask me for days off on my very first day and I felt so odd “granting” their days off. I have also had to sign for three raises in the past week as I had to approve the raises. There has been an immediate shift in my role from student to supervisor, but by Tuesday I started feeling more comfortable with my role as a leader. Overall, I felt prepared for the entire weeklong experience. I have had to review past contracts, future contracts, I have had to accompany my staff to their community-based outreach events, I have had to grant days off, approve salary increases, while simultaneously planning for the establishment of the infrastructure of our new program. There have been numerous challenges this week, but to be completely honest I feel that I was prepared. Also, my present supervisor was my former field instructor and we have built a strong working relationship so I trust that she would not allow me to flounder. A combination of preparation and support allowed me to successfully complete my first week of work as a macro-level practitioner.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Worse Exam EVER!

Okay, this is my last blog on my economics class. This class has been a HUGE challenge. All of my energy for the past five days has been dedicated to this one class. I haven't even bought my graduation regalia because I couldn't pull myself away from the econ books to go to the bookstore. Don't get me wrong it isn't riveting material or anything, I just had to make sure I got all of the information. The exam was absolutely challenging. I used up every second of the two hours allotted to me, but I walked away having double checked all of my answers. Overall, I am just ecstatic to be done with economics!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

An Indescribable Phenomenon

So, this whole graduate program in Social Work is like an indescribable phenomenon. Well almost, but I will attempt to succinctly put into words what this entire experience has done for me. As I finished my last day of classes in social work and I processed with my professors and classmates about our experiences in the USC School of Social Work I had so many thoughts and emotions associated with the topic that it was almost overwhelming. I entered this program knowing nothing about social work except for my experiences as a recipient of social work services. I walked into this school with a group of people who I didn’t know and frankly I wasn’t too interested in knowing. However, much to my surprise I have gotten to know so many of my classmates on a personal level and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have met and established friendships with so many wonderful people. Never in my life have I felt like I belong more than I have in the past two years. Please do not get me wrong, I acknowledge the differences between myself and many of my classmates and professors. However, being in a school where all individuals there have the same underlying beliefs and values is a unique phenomenon that does not occur very often. Our faculty and staff is also highly represented by social workers so I have been immersed in the world of social work. I started the program a graduate student, but I quickly began to identify as a social worker. After examining my personal and professional development throughout the last two years I recognize that there is method to the school’s madness. Yes we are placed in immersion, but why? Well we need to understand communities, but I mean truly understand community. Yes, we are placed in seminar with classmates for a whole year, but why? Because we gain a cohesive bond that provides support and familiarity. Yes, we chose concentrations, but why? Because even though we all are dedicated to social work our passions differ and we should all be allowed to pursue what we love. I love sitting in class with other students who are passionate about macro-level social work and I love having had the opportunity to sit in class with professors who have done great things as macro-practitioners. I love being able to go to my faculty or staff and know that there is a social worker sitting across from me who can empathize. I love that I have been able to be a part of a caucus where I feel a sense of belonging, and I love the fact that if that caucus wasn’t there the school would support me in starting a caucus. I love that I can do research and assist professors in contributing to the social work knowledge base. I love that I can tutor and share what I have learned with my fellow classmates and future colleagues. Now I walk away with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I took advantage of every lesson and opportunity that was made available to me. Overall, this experience has been amazing and I am saddened by the fact that I have to leave, but I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to have such a beautiful experience.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Last Tuesday

I can't believe this is my last week...and today was my last "Tuesday"....SAD!

Looking back:

I'm glad I read my own academic books...
I'm glad I met with social work friends to talk social justice and community change...yay!
I'm glad I got involved this last internship...and at home...and in the community.
I'm glad I refused to let go of my values.
I'm glad I was given the opportunity to give back to my school.
I'm glad I met some pretty awesome first years.
I'm glad I went to therapy...helped me to kick the coffee...(WOW!)
I'm glad I was picky about my electives.
I'm glad I chose to look outside the box at my internship.
I'm glad I went to Skid Row.
I'm glad I'm a SOCIAL WORKER.

Looking forward:

I'm glad I have a job.
I'm glad I feel empowered at my new job.
I'm glad I have the opportunity to ADVOCATE at my new job.
I'm glad I'm working with an agency and people I believe in.
I'm glad I'm working in an agency where I can utilize my macro skills.
I'm glad I'm happy.
I'm glad I'm a SOCIAL WORKER.
...oh yeah...I'm glad I've been 25 days sober! (one day at a time...)

Update on Termination

Yesterday at my placement, I had to say goodbye to 5 of my clients. I really didn't think it was going to be difficult because last week seemed to go so smoothly. However, I surprisingly felt some pangs of sadness despite my feelings last week that it would not be difficult! I guess I don't have a heart of steel! One of my clients was unable to be there because he ended up in the hopsital. I was really bummed out that I wouldn't be able to see him for one last time or to say goodbye. This was really surprising to me since he had been one of the most difficult clients to work with and I generally did not feel that I was attached to any of my clients. Wrong and wrong again. I called his hopsital room to say goodbye and find out how he was doing and the entire time I felt this sinking feeling in my stomach. I was NOT happy with our relationship ending without seeing each other. It felt artificial saying goodbye over the phone and really...NOT final. I found myself wishing that he could've been able to come in so we could say a "proper" goodbye. Ah! It just goes to show you that social workers must constantly try to balance their feelings of attachment and keep their professional boundaries. All of my clients wanted me to give them my phone number or e-mail so they could keep in touch with them since I had become a friend figure in the theraputic process. Now of course, I can't give out that info to them, even though I have the same wonderings about what they will be doing with their life in the future. Thank goodness I have one more year left so I can have more practice figuring out this balance!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Two more weeks!!

One more week of field and then my first year field placement is over. Wow...what a feeling. I am not sure where the time went. It seems like just yesterday I was meeting my field instructor for the first time. I have met a lot of great people there and will miss them greatly. My first year placement was a joy and something that I will take with me to my second year placement. On Monday begins a new chapter in my graduate education. It is the time where I start making calls to my second year choices and set up interview dates and times. I am a bit nervous but mostly excited. This coming week will be extremely busy. I have a presentation in my practice class which is not my favorite thing to do because speaking in front of even 15 people makes me a bit nervous. Although, this week will be fun because in some of my classes we are having a potluck to celebrate the end of the year and end of the semester. This should be fun and pretty laid back. It is hard to imagine that this year is almost over. The summer is much needed yet I am going to miss a lot of great people over the summer since I will be out of town most of the summer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Erica's Graduate Survival Tips

I thought it might be useful to share some of the techniques that I have utilized throughout graduate school to survive : ) that have been very effective. The techniques are listed in no particular order.

1. Learn to write in APA format buy the APA handbook.

2. Attend all brown bags possible. Not only will you gain an immense amount of knowledge, but most of the time they have great free food.

3. Always have quarters ready for the parking meters on Jefferson. The parking right in front of the school of social work is great because of its proximity and its $1 for four hours.

4. Always send a back up copy of all papers, and presentations to your own e-mail in case of emergency. This is extremely useful when you forget to bring your thumb drive to your final presentation : ).

5. Keep your eyes open for opportunities on campus and seize the moment. There are a number of great opportunities on campus for work that will bring in some extra income. Working side jobs on campus is not only convenient, but you get to know the faculty and staff much better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Termination Lunch

Today my internship placement had a termination lunch for myself and another intern. During the lunch I was asked some challenging questions. I was asked what I learned...I had a difficult time verbalizing how much I have learned about macro level social work, and about the culture of large bureaucratic social service organizations that function like large machines. I am walking away having learned so much and it would take a very long time for me to share all of that information. I have also had several challenges as an intern that I was able to overcome and they have been invaluable to my learning process. Overall, my learning experience as an intern has been rich and full of opportunities as well as challenges but I am officially ready to move on.

The "Final" Countdown

Sometimes, you start to get panicked thinking about all the assignments you need to turn in before you get to call it quits for the summer. All of my friends seem to be experiencing the same hightened levels of anxiety. About two weeks ago, I made a list in my notebook called the "Final" Countdown. (ha, yes, I think i'm funny!) I had 7 papers to write, 2 tests to study for, and 2 presentations to give. All within the last 4 weeks of school (and the week of finals I guess following). Seeing it on paper helped me plan for it. I'm almost done with one of my finals now, and soon I'll start studying for my last test in research. This is the busiest time of year! I'm also trying to coordinate where I'll be living next year and a job for the summer and packing up all my stuff to move back home for the summer! It's crazy!! Somehow, I've still managed to get things done...I think having read so much at the beginning really helped out now. All I have to focus on is the writing of the papers...and doing additional research, but that always seems like a non-stop process. I AM really looking forward to being done. I think we need a break when we don't have a bunch of deadlines hanging over our heads or assignments to worry about. I told one of my friends that I wasn't going to do any learning this summer, and he just laughed at me and said, "yeah right, you'll start reading for next year!" Unfortunately, he's probably right. I really want to buy some of my books in advance...although I'm not sure how I'm going to figure out what books to buy! Maybe I'll just go to Borders and get a ton of books that look interesting to me that are related to social work...I mean let's be serious, we are going to use references for our papers, so it'll help in the long run! I'm always looking ahead towards the future...but maybe I should learn to live more in the moment. Who knows! If I had more time, I could contemplate that further, but for now...I'm off to getting things checked off my list! 2 more weeks!!!! Crazy!!! Scary, exciting, and hectic all at the same time!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Team of MIcro and Macro Level Practice

This coming week holds a lot more stress then I care to talk about. I have my last research exam, which I am a bit nervous about and am feeling a bit apprehensive as well. Also I am terminating with most of my clients, which leaves me feeling a little sad. One of my clients has asked to continue in therapy and it has been my recommendation that they continue however due to the lack of resources the client will be referred out to county mental health. It seems a bit disappointing for me since he has grown attached to the agency as a whole and will now be asked to seek services elsewhere because at my agency the interns do most of the therapeutic services therefore when we all leave the agency lacks counseling services. On a more academic and policy level this just tells me there is a lot of work to be done on a more macro level. Making changes at an organizational level takes political changes, which again reinforces the micro-macro team. I have learned a lot about myself as well as the power of policy while working at this agency and it has inspired me to be not only a great clinician but also a superb advocate.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

leaving MSW =(

I'm in denial about leaving my program. I loved this last year immensely. The elective courses were amazing, my teachers were amazing, I met people through networking with my intership (an opportunity that I would not have had elsewhere.) Moving on was sad when I wasn't sure where I was going and although I'm still in denial, the end is sneeking up quickly....and the future looks bright.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Termination...the hardest part for me

Well, as we all prepare for termination with our first year, I realize that the hardest part for me isn't with my clients, but with my field instructor. Now by saying this, I do not mean to imply that my clients are not important to me. I think each one of them will always hold a special place in my heart, but I've always considered all of the people I've met in my life in that way. Everyone has an impact on you...large or small. My clients have helped me grow and learn so many life lessons too...I really feel that I've matured as an individual as well as a social worker. I've never really struggled with goodbyes because I've always been one to look to the future and say, "This was great, I've learned a lot...what's next!" However, leaving my field instructor is going to be tough! For awhile, I couldn't quite put my finger on why I felt sad about saying goodbye to him, but I realized it was because he did such an amazing job this year, I am worried that next year I won't get someone as good!! He's been an amazing guide on this journey and I can't thank him enough for drilling me on Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Countertransference and fun social work stuff like that. He really pushes me to take some risks and try new techniques. I know that next year will be an adventure...I just hope my field instructor is as wonderful as mine this year!!