Grad School, Part 1 of 4

Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2012

Side Note: I actually don't spend any time on the lovely Baylor campus. The social work building is downtown Waco (only a few minutes drive away), and we have our own computer lab, and I don't use libraries, and parking is free at SSW, so I'm never on main campus. I actually got a GA position where I would have been driving a golf cart all around campus, but then they realized I'm a social work student, and they couldn't give me the position as funding came from big Baylor graduate school (they're separated). That was dumb, but moving on. 

This first semester of grad school was really...fine. It wasn't particularly difficult, but I am one of those annoying people who likes school and doesn't procrastinate. I didn't get a lot of sleep, but that is mostly because I wake up much earlier than I need to, and don't go to bed as early as I maybe should. The amount of work was completely manageable, though I'm expecting things to get more difficult this next semester. I don't feel like my home life suffered, either; towards the end I was probably cooking dinner less frequently, but neither my house nor relationship fell to ruin. It maybe helps that I have no friendships down here to maintain, sad as that sounds. The commute to Waco wasn't bad, either. I had to drive in three days a week, and the half hour-40 minute drive isn't bad, except for all the trucks and bad Texas drivers. Most importantly, I haven't been weighed down by working in a field that can be thoroughly depressing. I spend my days at internship hearing directly from the victims about all the horrible things that have been done to them, and the bad things they have done as a result, but for whatever reason, I'm not really fazed by it. I used to wonder if I am just cold, but ultimately this is a quality that will allow me to work longer and harder in this field, where burnout is common and employee turnover rates high (on the positive- there is always a demand for social workers, and I could work pretty much anywhere). 

Everyone at the School of Social Work is very nice, encouraging, and supportive. I've never met more nice and genuinely caring people as the social work; I was a little taken aback at first, thinking, "wait, are you really like this, like, for real?" It is weird, sometimes being singled out as the only person that doesn't believe in God in class. I don't mind talking about it, and I've offered up that information willingly, but I do wish there was more diversity in that regard, because then all of the examples are from a particular faith perspective that all the teachers and most of the students share. I do think that Baylor is a bit behind in its ideas of diversity and cultural competence, in particular when there was a diversity panel, made up of a black woman, a mixed ethnicity guy, and a Mexican woman. That was supposed to equal diversity, and it left all the white students thinking they have no voice in that discussion. I do think some of the curriculum could be changed a bit, but overall I think classes were helpful and related strongly to my internship. My internship went well, also, though there were struggles within the agency, with staff quitting or being let go left and right, including my field instructor, but hopefully next semester will run more smoothly there. Part way through the semester I also got a graduate assistant position, and I'll be working with a professor for the remainder of the year. The primary research for that has been discrepancies with adoptions and health care when it comes to race, and how community outrage can lead to state legislation. 

As I was not a social work undergrad, I definitely feel I've learned a lot about the profession in this first semester. I am, however, still quite uncertain as to what I want to do after I take my license test, graduate, and have LMSW attached to my name (aside from leaving Texas and having all the babies). Social workers work in just about every setting you could thing of, helping people in whatever ways they need. I could work in a hospital, or a school district, or with veterans, kids, people who are dying or people who are struggling to live. Social workers work with a whole person, that includes their spiritual and cultural beliefs, their socioeconomic status, physical well being, mental and emotional state, their surrounding environment, family, community, state and country. At this point I'm not sure what exactly I want to do, but my interest in macro social work, dealing with community movements, social policy and more "big picture" stuff has been growing (I think since watching The West Wing I have this romantic notion of moving back to DC and fighting to make the world a better place. oops). My experience, even before school, however, is with adolescents and their families, in behavioral and mental health facilities. Next semester, though, are the community practice classes, and I will be working with adults and the elderly at my internship, so I may gain a better idea of where I want to take my skills and interest. 

With social work, you really, really have to think a lot about your life, thoughts, beliefs and perspectives, because you can't let them get in the way of helping a client. So we have done a lot of self-reflection over the semester, and a lot of talking about ourselves, odd as it may sound. I have become way more aware of what I think is right and what is not right, and in that become more politically charged, particularly when it comes to social issues (it was really amusing being the only one showing up to class happy the day after the election). This semester fell in line with a pretty violent and surprise separation between my parents, and I know honing in on this social work perspective that I already naturally had, has helped me work through that personal situation as well. Ultimately, while I oddly did have some reoccurring terrible migraines and had to be put on preventative medicine, I had a good and relatively low-stress start to my masters program, complete with all As and a new appreciation for, well, everything. 

- From the desk of Mrs. M


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