Eat well. Travel often.

Tabeen Spring 2014By Tabeen

That phrase is a motto that I’ve grown to live by in my adult years. There is no greater joy to me than exploring different areas of the world and eating native cuisines. The idea of travel, of being able to examine the history, food, language and society of another country, of being able to truly immerse myself and experience the various beautiful cultures that surround us – that is what truly brings me happiness.

Culture is inherently important to social work. As a first-generation immigrant, I am particularly interested in working with various populations of different diversities. My parents are from Bangladesh, so I spent my childhood speaking two languages and acquiring a third as I continued my education. Due to this, I developed a facility for one-on-one interaction, learning to listen closely and familiarize myself with different cultures. My current work with monolingual patients at my internship at Shriner’s as well as my part time job as a pharmacy technician inspires me to continue my studies in Spanish, as I notice how my effort to communicate with the patients in their native tongue comforts them. I have an appreciation for other cultures and I continue to learn that I can better help patients when I have an openness to learn about their backgrounds.

Social work is about improving the lives of other individuals and communities, which regularly involves working with people from upbringings and experiences that may be different than our own. Our work often involves dealing with issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, unresolved grief, poverty, development and human rights. However, the United States is not the only country to face these issues. People all over the world are experiencing the same problems, and studying abroad can offer you a new perspective on the policies of other countries and how they tackle the social injustices within their own communities. Diversity is incredible because it is educational, and I believe that the ability to understand and connect with people from other backgrounds is the foundation for positive, open communication. The first step towards cultural acceptance comes from opening your eyes to new experiences and pushing yourselves to travel (literally!) outside your comfort zone to learn more about other religions, customs and traditions. Traveling abroad will provide an invaluable education on other societies all over the world and will enhance your ability to offer authenticity as a social worker and provide help through a different lens.

As a social worker, learning extends far outside the reach of the classroom. What better way to practice communication across different backgrounds than experiencing life in a foreign country? Traveling through social work enables you opportunities to develop new programs, implement educational resources for a population, create various community service projects, and provide counseling and health care services to locals who are in need. University of Houston encourages students to take that adventure, and offers several opportunities for trips and scholarships to help you take that journey. For this spring, UH is offering trips to Turkey, Bolivia, Hong Kong, China and Australia.Travel not only enhances your understanding of the world, but it teaches you about yourself by inspiring self-reflection, personal growth and openness to other ways of life. I encourage you to take one of these explorations and see for yourself J

For more information on study abroad trips, visit www.uh.edu/studyabroad or contact Dr. Patrick Leung, our main contact for study abroad trips, at pleung@uh.edu or 713.743.8111.

Great Expectations

Anna Spring 2014By Anna Johnson

I remember vividly the day I found out my field placement. For weeks after the start of the semester, I had been pondering the question of my placement. Would I be working in a school? Would I be working with older adults? At the time, I was interested in medical social work, so I dreamed of a placement in a hospital. As the weeks passed, though, I allowed myself to be in the uncertainty. As I started digging into my readings and assignments I realized that the best way to handle the uncertainty was to accept it whole-heartedly. Instead of trying to control it by holding on to one placement over another, I opened myself up to the possibilities it held.

This turned out to be a good tactic, because my placement was a complete surprise to me. One of the first things you learn in Foundations, by talking to your classmates about their placements, is that social workers can go just about anywhere. The vastness of placements in Houston is almost overwhelming. The field office lists over 100 partner agencies which provide field instruction, but the number of social service agencies in Houston must be even greater.

So, when I read the name of my field placement, the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, my first thought was, “I need to Google this one.” After a little bit of research, I learned that the Alliance provides a range of services to refugees in Houston, including ESL, driver’s education, employment, financial assistance, and case management. They also have a translation program with over 70 languages, a tailoring shop, and an organic garden.

Wow.

It was a lot to take in, but boy was I excited. I contacted my field instructor for a meeting, and continued to immerse myself in their website, hoping to learn as much as possible. Then the thought occurred to me: “Will it matter that I don’t speak any other languages?” It seems ridiculous now to be worried about this, but the week before my meeting with my field instructor, I dwelled on this thought. I thought back to my high school days of goofing off in French class, and cursed my decision to take German instead of Spanish in college. When I met with my field instructor, I voiced my concern, and immediately she assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. Some of the clients speak English, and an interpreter can be arranged if needed.

I knew next to nothing about refugees when I started in October. Now, I can talk at length about where many of our refugee population come from, as well as the issues that refugees encounter when they arrive. If I had been closed off about my placement, stuck in the mindset that I couldn’t work with clients if I didn’t share their language or background, I never would have gained that knowledge and experience. Not only that, if I had remained closed off about the type of experience I wanted (i.e. clinical over macro), I never would have gotten the chance to explore macro work. As a student on the macro track now, I can say that my experiences in field were crucial in shaping my decision.

For prospective students who might be in my shoes next fall, I challenge you to stay with the feeling of uncertainty that you will inevitably encounter. Part of the joy in being a student is exploring possibilities and opening your mind to new ideas. Embrace the opportunity, and maximize your experience at the GCSW.

Stop texting. Be present.

Jackie profile picBy Jackie

As I was standing in line to get my free UH red t-shirt, searching for UH’s Facebook page to show the media staff my “Like”, I overheard the girl and guy behind me talking about their phones.  Their conversation went something like this . . . Girl: “I check my phone like every 2 seconds” Boy: “Yeah, its hard to do in Biology, but I check it all the time too.” Girl: “Yeah, that’s the only class I can’t be on my phone constantly” . . . I smiled because this conversation, in the middle of the day, reflected what so many of us have struggled with in our own lives.

I avoided getting a smart phone for nearly 2 years while in the PhD program.  Eventually, I succumbed to the convenience of having immediate access to my emails.  Good decision? Well, mostly. But, there have definitely been bouts of obsessive email (5 accounts), Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. checking.  And I really don’t have that much free time on my hands.  I have a dissertation in progress, I have 2 jobs, I have manuscripts to finish – there are plenty of deadlines.  Sure, it’s great to immediately catch the incoming email request or take a mindless break looking at pictures and posts, but it can also be a terrible, avoidant habit. Programs like SelfControl have been wonderful for helping me regain discipline (on my computer) and helped me to commit to just leaving my phone alone. Technology can be SO addicting.  Really, the feedback, the “likes”, the new posts are intriguing, but they aren’t emergencies. They surely aren’t going to help me reach any of my deadlines.

The interesting thing about struggling to shut off technology is how observant it can make you of your habits and everyone else’s.  It is hard to drive and not pick up your phone when you get a text.  It is hard to just walk to the parking lot or stand silently in the elevator without feeling the need to check something. It is hard to focus on the people you are having dinner with when the phone lights up at the table. It is hard to not be distracted by other people picking up their phones every five minutes while you are at a social event, family party, or small dinner.

You have probably experienced something similar.  Maybe you too were sitting at a dinner table, exchanging stories about life, eating dinner, and then all of a sudden a friend or family member picks up their phone to send a text or check Facebook. And just like that they have disconnected from the presence of real life people. I am not talking about the occasional check in with kids or a partner.  I am talking about disengaging in active conversation to connect with the virtual world, reply to an incoming text, or send a message that could have been sent later. I’m talking about exchanges that suggest real life is not as interesting as virtual life. I’m talking about technology overload.

I recognize that some of the mechanical reactions can be productive.  I’ve noticed my partner reflexively reaching for her phone at the sound of an incoming email or text.  This helps her avoid stress by responding to her professional duties as soon as possible.  I do this too throughout the day with my emails. However, at the end of the day when we sit at the dinner table it takes a conscious effort to put away the phones and agree to just slow down. This is one of our family rules. We temporarily disconnect from technology every day to be fully present with each other. We talk and enjoy each other’s company.  We ignore our phones and computers. I absolutely love it. Having moments free from the distraction of devices helps us to stay grounded in the present moment.  It provides a little balance.

I’m continuing to work on not being avoidant or allowing my technology to consume my day. Every now and then I fully unplug for a day or a weekend. I practice self-control (both the app and ability). I spend time being mindful.  I decide not to pull out my phone when I can enjoy my walk outdoors or fully immerse myself in the presence of my loved ones. I make a phone call instead of sending a text or have a face-to-face talk. It may not be as convenient, but it helps me maintain a connection to other people. So, unplug for a little while, be inaccessible, set boundaries.  It is okay to not be bombarded with technology. And for goodness’ sake put your phone away at the dinner table. Stop texting. Be present.

Clowning Around

 

Dixie blog2013 picBy Dixie

I recently participated in a medical clown training offered by GCSW with Jeff Gordon, a medical clown practicing in Israel. I am a macro student and have not had many opportunities to participate in clinical trainings and workshops throughout my time at GCSW so this training was definitely different than anything I have taken part in previously. Prior to this training I really had no knowledge of ‘clowning’ as a form of therapy and therefore was a little apprehensive to participate. However, after completing the workshop I not only feel that it could be an effective channel in which to reach children and adults that are in pain or experiencing trauma but a therapeutic outlet for the clinician as well.

I believe that the most important lesson I learned from this training is that we are not going to have all of the answers and we are not going to be perfect clinicians but if we are able to meet our clients with authenticity and love we will be effective. By stepping into the clown role, the clinician is able to step into a mental state that is not concerned with our own pain, desire, joy or happiness but open to other’s pain, desire, joy and happiness.

By nurturing the ‘inner clown’, we are able to understand the roles we play in everyday life. As Jeff said in the workshop description, “through being in Clown role, we can start to take a more playful, spontaneous fun and humorous approach to both our personal and professional lives.” I think approaching life this way allows for more authenticity to break through the different roles we play in our lives, bringing us closer to our authentic selves.

Clown therapy is aligned with social work professional values such as person-in-environment and strengths-based perspective. When working with a client the clown is supposed to focus on the strengths of the client rather than seeing them as the sickness or traumatic experience. As the therapist, the clown must use the client’s strengths to help them see past the pain, medical condition or traumatic experience and guide them through the healing process. By focusing on the client’s strengths, the clinician will help the client begin to see themselves as a whole person not just the disease, sickness our traumatic experience. The clown is also capable of meeting the client exactly where they are in the moment. Without the rigid structure required of some therapeutic techniques the medical clown is able to walk into a room and just be present and available to the client in order to work from the client’s needs not the requirements dictated by a curriculum. This freedom allows the clinician to move with the client at their own pace while constantly working within the client’s environment.

These values were reflected through an example Jeff shared during the workshop about a young teenage girl that tried to commit suicide. Jeff was called in soon after she was admitted to the hospital to begin working with her. He explained that he very slowly peeked into her room and then, through facial and body movements alone, acted as if she was the most beautiful and precious thing he had ever seen on the planet. Jeff explained that clowns have the freedom to ‘discover’ each element as if for the very first time. She needed to feel loved and Jeff was able to do this as a clown in a very pure, meaningful and authentic way that he would not have been able to convey otherwise.

For more information on medical clowning in Israel see this website: http://www.dreamdoctors.org.il/eng/

How to be a Policy Person

Sara blog2013 pic

By Sara

Policy. The word itself evokes fear, apprehension, or just plain indifference. Some people do not want anything to do with policy and stay far away. On the other hand, there are people who value its necessity for society, and find it exciting or interesting. Social work students refer to these individuals as “policy people”. This fall, in Advanced Social Policy Analysis with Dr. Suzanne Pritzker, I saw social work students, who feared policy at the beginning of the semester, convert right before my eyes. After a little encouragement and support (and some advocacy practice), anyone can become a ‘policy person’.

What is advocacy?

Instead of thinking in terms of ‘policy’ or ‘politics’, we’ll look at advocacy. Though these terms are not mutually exclusive, the word advocacy is not nearly as intimidating and has a positive vibe. In some ways, social work students who experience advocacy become increasingly interested in policy. Advocacy is promoting a cause for an individual or group. Social workers are front-line workers who see the needs of the populations we work with. That is why it is so important to raise awareness and advocate for our clients. It so important, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has included Social and Political Action in our code of ethics. (See: NASW Code of Ethics 6.04).

Why the hesitation?

I think for some, talking to strange people is a terrifying thing to do. Advocacy requires you to speak professionally and knowledgably about a cause.  This can be daunting, especially when you are sharing your beliefs and values. Maybe someone will judge you or challenge you. Maybe you’ll get ignored. Maybe you’ll mess up and say the wrong thing. Even if these things happen, just remember: if one person listened, you still made a difference. In the Advanced Social Policy Analysis class with Dr. Pritzker, we were assigned to do an advocacy activity. Everyone in class ran into some kind of challenge. But all challenges or barriers to advocacy are just little bumps in the road. We overcame them, and we still reached our goal of advocacy.

Steps/tips to take action:

  • We are considered experts in our field, and we know what changes could significantly help our clients. When you hear yourself saying “If only this law/policy could change”, vocalize this concern with someone other than yourself.
  • Get involved in organizations that interest you. By ‘get involved’, I mean do more than sign up to receive their e-mails. Attend events! Meet people! Which leads me to my next tip:
  • Attending events/fundraisers is advocating, too! There is power in numbers. While you’re at it, encourage others to join you.
  • Don’t be afraid to start your own advocacy project. If you really believe that something should be changed, and no one else is trying to change it: Spread the word, talk to anyone who is interested, and make waves.
  • Get to know your government representatives. You may or may not have voted for them, but they still represent you. Make an appointment and tell them what concerns you. If they listen and consider taking action, then you just made a very powerful ally.
  • If you are still nervous (or don’t care), then remember that having your voice heard is better than saying nothing at all.

Mom, ABD

HollyBy Holly

I’m realizing it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated my blog. In fact, it’s been about 14 months (2 months after our daughter was born). The last blog I wrote was “Oh, baby!”, documenting the moments of being pregnant in a PhD program. Tonight, I sit here in a Starbucks, working, with my husband home, entertaining our 16-month-old Energizer bunny, Callie.

Holly daughter pic

I wanted to take a moment to offer a brief update on becoming a parent in a PhD program for those who may have a similar journey. I have fully realized the many truths I heard as I waddled around the GCSW halls with a big ‘ol pregnant belly, about being a brand new parent in this program is unbelievably hard…

But what I have learned is that it is (thankfully) not impossible.

Before I had my daughter, in my last blog post, I wrote about 3 main factors that have made my transition to motherhood such a positive one:

“1) having supportive mentors who value family, 2) having an environment where other faculty, staff, and students are positive towards the process, and 3) having one absolutely amazing spouse by my side!”

… and let me tell you, they totally remain. My mentors are rock stars. The faculty, staff, and students at GCSW constantly ask about Callie and allow me to gush over her photos in my phone. And my husband is a fantastic partner, supporting me through each step of this journey. I could not do what I do without each of these crucial aspects of my life.

For example, this past semester, I collected my dissertation data, wrote my first dissertation article, and entered the job market for an assistant professor faculty position, with interviews to nail, planes to catch, and conferences to present and interview at (one of which, my husband and daughter came with me, because it was on Halloween and we had friends and family in the area!) Meanwhile, I began teaching my first Evaluation of Social Work Practice class, and had 28 future social workers to empower and inspire to question and evaluate everything they do. I was amazed by how much I love teaching and watching light bulbs turn on, multitasking turn off, and imagining the clients that may be changed by the new information the students were hopefully absorbing!

To my list above on what’s made this possible, I would add having a support network close by to help with daycare and emergencies. Amidst the busyness on campus and at home, I was sneaking in work during naptime, calling Callie’s grandmothers to see who could watch her on certain days, and juggling my husband’s schedule with mine to determine when he could be with her. No two weeks were ever alike, and I’m indebted to our families for their love and support.

So what did I learn from this past semester, in addition to the other 3 (now 4) factors being so important? Well, there are a few things.

First, my planner and organization schedule changed drastically. Instead of mapping out every 15 minutes of my day, I quickly learned that I needed to be flexible on time. (Have you ever tried to get out the door with a baby? It’s an extra 60-90 minutes added to your daily routine with clean ups, blow outs, and a long list of things to carry EVERYWHERE, all the time.) So, I got a simpler planner that only had about 10 lines, of which, I filled about 3-5: one on where Callie would be that day and my husband’s schedule, one on whatever was due, the other 2-3 lines dedicated to what I hoped to accomplish, and a running to-do list filling the margins.

I also learned about self-forgiveness in a whole new way. I no longer had the energy to do everything I could do before (ie, the dual degree year would have been near impossible). Instead, I continued to simply tap into my intrinsic motivation to do good, important work to the best of my ability, and often reminded myself that I am only human. And, in order to do good, important work, that means I had to adjust my balancing act. No longer was I balancing just my roles as a full-time PhD student, part-time employee, and wife, but I now have this huge responsibility of loving and molding this little person whose attachment to me has shown to be a massive predictor for how she will view and interact with the world for the rest of her life. I take that role pretty seriously.

However, I take my role as a social worker equally seriously and just as I’ve spoken and written about wanting to leave a positive impact on the GCSW, I joyfully feel the same responsibility for our profession and the clients we serve.

Additionally, I learned about the precious use of time in a new way. We all have 24 hours in a day to do with what we choose. But we really need to choose wisely. If you have an extra hour given each day, do you catch up on work? Make a list for tomorrow? Spend it on the phone with a friend? Schedule an overdue medical appointment? Pay bills? Curl up on the couch with a bowl of ice cream? Pour a glass of wine and grab a paintbrush? Meditate? Learn? Drink coffee and people watch? Time is such a precious gift that should be used intentionally, fulfilling or sustaining us rather than draining or numbing. In our home, we have a quote by Erma Bombeck that hangs by the door that I think nicely reflects this idea. It serves as a daily reminder for me that every day, every hour, every minute, every second is a gift to give back or put to use. The quote reads:

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

Just Breathe (Seriously!)

Emmony blog2013 pic

By Emmony

As the reality of end of the semester finals and last minute work duties set in at the GCSW,  it’s difficult to stop and take a quick breather and be mindful of the present moment.  In all honestly, my first reaction when someone tells me to calm down or not stress about finding parking are to just give them THE LOOK.  I think back to a popular internet meme, and all I can mutter out in response after THE LOOK is that “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Emmony Blog[Re-enactment of the look by my trusty sidekick—who sadly gets the look from me as well!]

But, guess what? You do have time for that. Heck, you need that. I’m talking about you, fellow GCSW Student.

So, in case you have forgotten the steps, I’m going to walk you through a quick version breathing exercise to get your memory jogging. I currently have an awesome professor who uses this method before class to help us get centered and to temporarily relieve ourselves of our daily schedule, to do lists, and parking woes. It is a breathing/mindfulness exercise where we choose and control (yes, I said it) our focus of attention and present moment. Ready?

First: Be comfy. Close your eyes, uncross your legs.

Second: Breathing. With eyes closed, inhale through the nose, then exhale through your mouth. Repeat 3 times (you’ll get the hang of it!). Do this slowly, and inhale and exhale deeply.

Third:  While eyes are closed, and still following the breathing pattern, think about what is bothering you, or on your to do list, or just wandering in your head. Imagine in your head that you place all of these things into a box,  then push that box aside.  Or kick it aside. Whatever you prefer. (I love imagining placing the UH campus in a box…or my 10 page paper in there!)

Fourth: Open your eyes. Feel any different? A bit lighter? Perhaps the tension in your shoulders is relieved a bit?

As corny as doing a breathing exercise may sound, taking a minute or two to go through these steps really helps me before class or in the car before I head in to work. Make the commitment of trying it out at least once a week during your particularly tough days, and I can guarantee that you will notice a difference and have fewer incidences of THE LOOK.

Cultivating Righteous Indignation

Dixie blog2013 picBy Dixie

This semester I’m taking global justice, taught by Jody Williams, and during the first class she talked about ‘righteous indignation’ and the difference between it and anger. Righteous indignation is a form of anger but in its essence, is a sense of mistreatment or injustice.

I instantly identified with those two words. I think mostly because I’m quickly becoming that friend/date/family member that talks about the (insert: terrible injustice) in (insert: community) with the passion most reserve for talking about Texas football. Yep, I’m that girl.

Most of the time my ‘righteous indignation’ is met with uncomfortable laughs, and eye rolls but when I walk into the GCSW all that changes. I’m surrounded by brilliant and passionate people that have not only identified what makes them ‘righteously indignant’ but are doing something about it. Gone are the uncomfortable laughs, eye rolls and complacency with the status quo. It’s comforting and terrifying all at once to have such a passionate study body. A student body that challenges you to ask “why” when it’s really tough to do and to speak out against social injustice when no one else will.

Although my second year is off and running with very little time to do anything but check the next assignment, reading or task off my ‘to do’ list, there are several projects that I am finding myself dedicating more and more time to this semester. With the help of a group of fantastic classmates I’m learning how to hone what makes me ‘righteously indignant.’

My advice to you is take advantage of this as a GCSW student. I love what my friend and classmate, Sara, said in a previous post about being a social worker and GCSW student. “Every social worker I have met, at the GCSW and beyond, is filled with so much passion and is intrinsically supportive. We help each other, learn from each other, enjoy each other’s company, celebrate each other’s success and support each other in times of need.”

In my experience, at the GCSW this is absolutely true and without the “righteous indignation’ of my colleagues and their help in cultivating my own, my MSW experience would be vastly different.

Vacationing for a happier, healthier life

Jackie profile picBy Jackie

A wonderfully thrilling awareness occurs as you near the end of your program . . . you see glimpses of life after graduation.  Recently I was interviewing a PhD graduate and I was overjoyed by her enthusiasm for newfound time and relaxation. She described searching for events to fill her time!  Now, how awesome is that?! My sister also completed her PhD within the last month and she described feeling weird about not having pressing work to do in the evenings and weekend hours. She says she still hasn’t recovered, but she is easing into a more leisurely pace. And I realized that while I am striving toward graduation and a new normal, it is vacation that is keeping me sane. Just a few weeks ago I took a much needed break from the daily grind.  During this holiday I experienced renewed energy and a little residual laziness in the following weeks.

The week prior to leaving was sheer madness.  There was the crunch of deadlines and making arrangements for while I was away. I was concerned about my ailing dog, Molly, and took her for 3-4 vet visits in less than 2 weeks.  I called her previous owners to talk about her declining health and to arrange a visit.  During this time, my dear friend lost her feline companion of 18 years and we had healing conversations about losing something you love and preparing for loss. My partner was also working like a madwoman to manage her team and finish reports.  So home, work, and play were jam packed with activity. With sheer determination we managed to get Molly to our friends’ house for dog sitting, pick up the rental car, pack the suitcase with everything we needed, and wake up on Saturday morning ready for the long trek to Destin’s white sands and blue waters.

I think it took me a day and half to just let go.  It can be very difficult to transition from the constant stream of email and projects to simply nothing.  But by the middle of the week, I had soaking up the sun, cooling off with a dip in the ocean, lying on the beach, and falling asleep down to a science. And then I hardly cared about anything. It was like it all just washed away.  I wasn’t worried about getting back to anyone.  I wasn’t concerned about writing a paper. I didn’t feel pressure to meet a deadline.  I was in the moment.  It was a beautiful, glorious moment full of laughter, fresh air, good food, sleep, and connection with others.  It was so wonderful that resuming my regular schedule the following week was filled with many mornings where somehow the snooze button got activated several times.

While taking a break from work activity the week after vacation, I read an article Don’t be a Part of the “No Vacation Nation” and I felt validated (for thinking about what my next vacation should be). The author writes “People who don’t use their vacation time are more likely to develop heart disease and depression, and are even at greater risk of death than those who do.”  While there wasn’t a reference for this information, my own quick internet and library searches provided more support. NPR wrote an article, Relax! Vacations are Good for your Health that also touts the health and wellness benefits of vacation. The article describes research that associates vacation with better moods, more life satisfaction, lower stress, and longevity. Researchers such as Bloom, Geurts, and Kompier (2012) found that employees who took short vacations (up to 5 days) experienced positive influences to health and well-being that lasted after returning home. Although Bloom, Geurts, & Kompier’s work suggests the positive influences are short term, vacation may still be important for overall wellness.  Yes, indeed. We all need a respite. So, live long and vacation often!!! This is my plan for getting to graduation and starting the next chapter of my life.

Bloom, J., Geurts, S. E., & Kompier, M. J. (2012). Effects of Short Vacations, Vacation Activities and Experiences on Employee Health and Well-Being. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 28(4), 305-318. doi:10.1002/smi.1434

Staying connected- GCSW Pride

Emmony blog2013 picBy Emmony

As a full time student it is hard to stay connected to activities and clubs on campus–So little time!  There were definitely several worries in my mind before I decided to join and actively participate in a graduate organization.  I could already identity a few things that were creating roadblocks in my mind before joining.  

The top five:

1. Worrying about my grades- would club activities leave less time for me to study and do homework? Would I have to start doing my assignments extra early to meet the demand?

2. Wondering how to balance my part-time job with the organization.

3. Not getting home early to take my dog to the park or spend time with family (Yes, it crossed my mind!)

4. Fighting traffic and student parking to make meetings.

5.  Not being able to live up to expectations/demands of the organization.

Then, I thought about the ways I could manage my time and not sacrifice my organization participation, grades, or schools. The first thing I did was attend one of the meetings to learn more before I made my decision. I came to appreciate the meeting as I got interested in the topics and events, and realized that with a few small steps I could make it work. Most meetings were during lunch or between breaks just once a month, which I could very easily attend. Normally I would just sit outside to eat, so it didn’t cut too much into my day.  Also, since I was already on campus, traffic and parking wasn’t an issue anymore. I also learned that events are planned in advance, so if I prioritized my calendar, balance of school and participation in fun events would be possible. The fear of expectations of participation of the organization also started dissipating as I learned that all of the students had different schedules and that many events were broken down so that planning could be done in teams and sometimes away from campus. In addition, with all of the different ways to communicate (Facebook, email, etc) it became very easy to stay connected and up to date.

With this new perspective, I realized that any opportunity to contribute our voices and to learn about the planning of organizational GCSW events, among other things, outweighed the doubts I had in my mind before. I really enjoy being a part of a team of students that connects with new people and faculty to promote the unity and diversity of our student body, and below are the top 5 ways I feel joining has benefitted me:

1. Networking: Connecting with students from other cohorts and meeting faculty.

2. Increased confidence and practice in leadership and organization management skills.

3. Social: Having fun as a team and also utilizing different member backgrounds to learn about potential classes and career opportunities.

4. Volunteer opportunities.

5. Exposure to different issues that affect our student body experience and personal growth in planning as a team to address these issues.

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