New City Living

I come from a place where it would rain 9 out of 12 months, snow during winters, and on many occasions the sun would shine, it would rain, hail and go back to being sunny again all in one day. The PNW was my home for the last 22 years but now Houston is where I call home. I thought I’d always live in Oregon with my family but when my mom moved to Atlanta it opened my eyes to so much more this world has to offer.

Why Houston? I wanted something different where I could feel out of place but comfortable at the same time and I’ve gained that here. I drove from Corvallis, Oregon all the way to Houston, Texas for this program and as soon as I got here I could already see that there are so many differences between the two. So much more food to enjoy, the weather is completely new to me, I can go down the street and find a beauty shop with everything I need, the crisscrossed highways and the main thing that stood out to me was the diversity of the city. Oregon as a whole isn’t comparable. I can admit, it was a tough transition moving because I didn’t know anyone, I don’t have family here and everything was completely new to me. There were many times where I would get depressed because I would see my friends back home together, and family gatherings that I couldn’t attend because I was now so far away. How was I going to get out of this slump, how do I meet people, will I ever get out of the house?

A few things I did was first, since I am in a historically black sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. I attended Greek life events that took place on campus to try and connect to other members of my sorority as well as our council as a whole and I was able to link with a few people, exchange numbers and start building connections there. This was very helpful for me because they were like my first life line for where are the good spots to eat, best grocery stores, places to get my car looked at if I have any problems, hair salons, and all sorts of things that I wouldn’t have known on my own. Second, I was able to connect with people in my cohort for class. I feel this was a lot easier because we were together for class every time and we started to get familiar with one another and through this I am able to talk to them about anything because we grew closer.

Third, I took the initiative to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and just went out and did things on my own in order to familiarize myself with what’s around me. Don’t get me wrong I still don’t know my way around everywhere; GPS is my best friend but just driving around downtown, or around my apartment to just see what’s out there was helpful. And when I had family or friends come to visit from out of town I was able to take them around and even more so this time get out and walk around with them to experience the nitty gritty. Lastly, this doesn’t really apply to everyone but I needed to look for a part-time job and through that, the coworkers I have are extremely nice and are always telling me about events that are coming up, giving advice on things and just helping me when I need it.

I have been in Houston for 8 months now and I still have my days where I just go to class, come home and stay the rest of the day, or spend my weekends watching sports all day, I enjoy that. Some of the things I’ve been able to do have been attending many Greek events, checking out bars and different clubs, shopping in the Galleria and seeing the water wall. The zoo is free for UH students so I went there as well. I am a sports fanatic and one of the most exciting things I got to do was attend the Super Bowl experience down at the Discovery Green park and see everything that it had to offer. I’ve learned that it’s going to take some time to get acquainted with such a big city as Houston and I’m excited to do so because it’s never ending and I’m always down for something new to get out and experience.

Written by Queen Dash

 

Surviving as a Student Mom

Written by Shu

Being a full-time student with a part-time job is challenging. On top of that, I just had my first baby in October 2016. Fortunately, I am surviving as a student mom with the tremendous support from the GCSW I have received.

First of all, my professors and colleagues have demonstrated a huge amount of understanding and support regarding the big change in my life. Those who had their kids when they were students showed me particular care and empathy. They gave me a lot of their best parenting tips as working moms, from making a pumping schedule to selecting daycare. These tips are very helpful for me, an international student who is not familiar with the local system.  My professors also gave some flexibility for my coursework schedule, so I can have the baby in the middle of the semester without having too much stress about assignments and grades.

Second, the university and college gave me some flexible maternity leave. Although it was unpaid, I was allowed to choose the length and the start and ending dates, based on my unique needs. After I returned to work in November 2016, my teaching assistant position also gave me flexible work hours with no location restriction. I had the opportunity to work whenever and wherever I wanted. It saved me a lot of travel time and allowed me to spend more time with my baby. This time is very important for my baby and myself as we develop our bond.

Third, the university and college facilities are student mom friendly. On the second floor in the GCSW building, a lactation room is available for nursing and pumping purposes. As a teaching assistant, I also had some semi-private office space on the third floor to use as needed. In addition, UH daycare is by far the best daycare we have visited. The classrooms and playground are huge, beautiful, and clean. The teachers and staff are educated, experienced, and friendly. The price is competitive among other daycares with the same level of quality. It also offers student discounts and financial aid.

Some strategies have helped me to make my new student mom journey smooth. The most important thing is early and clear communication. When I was pregnant, I discussed my academic and employment plans with the PhD program. The program was able to provide the most support after knowing my and my family’s needs better.

Time management is another important skill for student moms. I reprioritized everything in my life after being pregnant, and again, after my baby was born. I had to make the decision to give up some things I like and used to do. For example, I was no longer able to attend the face-to-face student ambassador meeting. However, there are always alternatives. With help from technology, I can join the meetings online using Zoom software.

Being a mom has brought me so much joy but it is not easy being a student mother. Sometimes, I miss my son while I am at school or work. I feel fortunate to be in an environment that has supported my motherhood journey every step of the way while keeping me on track in my professional goals.

In the News

As I ponder the opportunity to march down the aisle to join the ranks of over 650,000 social workers across the nation, I can’t help but find myself thinking about the responsibility that comes with that title. I think about the commitment to social justice that our profession has held near and dear in this country since the days of Jane Addams in the late 1800’s. I think about the magnificent impact that all of us upholding this commitment could have in the current political climate.

As social workers, who bear witness to struggle, social injustice, and intolerable pain, we will certainly be called upon to serve as a candle of hope, for our children and the many, many people that we aspire to serve. While the election results represent what a large portion of our country believes is the path to “safety” and “economic stability”, the other half of our great country sought a different road – to an equitable and inclusive society where opportunity, safety and freedom would be shared by all of its people, regardless of our background, beliefs, or status.

In America, democracy is a government of, by, and for all its people. I look forward to each of us as aspiring social workers to remember that it our duty to our fellow man/woman to pledge to combat racism, homophobia, xenophobia and sexism no matter where it shows up, including in the form of a new administration that governs our nation.

As I end this post, I would like to leave you with a quote from a great champion of justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, in a speech at Dinkier Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King said, “History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.”

Additionally, Dr. King has been attributed to saying, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Written by Terran Fontenot

 

Saying Goodbye

In 2008, our country elected Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American President in American history. At the time, he offered something no other public figure could: hope and change. To a future social worker like me, hope and change meant that wonderful possibilities could exist! He was the symbol for a variety of political and social issues with hopes that those issues could be overcome. Many of us had deep admiration for the man who was funny, sensible, graceful, compassionate, an intellectual, a great orator, a loving father, a devoted husband, and an overall good human being. To me, his candidacy promised “one America” and my whimsical thinking of a post-racial United States.

However, in contrast, the past eight years we saw our country deeply divided against itself. When many were ready for and seeking change, others saw their reality turned upside down. When some saw promise, others saw threat. Social progress looked like an unintended hazard. To the disappointment of many and the delight of others, there is the pledge to undo the Obama policies, to erase them as if they had been scribbled down with a pencil on a drawing pad. I believe part of this disagreement comes from the deep divide in our political parties, another part of it comes from president Obama’s leadership style (as his team always maintained that they don’t do theater) and the last part comes from implicit bias. Yet, through it all (The never-ending wars and drone strikes, the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, fights to address climate change and national security, efforts at education and gun control, an open Guantanamo and republican obstructionism) this is what held fast: dignity, grace, integrity, and a pleasure to be of service.

In addition, every presidency had debates about race and culture but none quite like the Obama years. For example, we witnessed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and an upsurge in white identity politics. We have seen a rebirth in the fight for civil rights, with protests against police brutality and unjustified murders, as well as increasing acceptance of LGBTQIA rights. At the same time, millions of families were torn apart as Obama’s administration deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in our young country’s history. Black and Brown children are still being funneled through the school-to-prison pipeline. While all this was happening, we watched president Obama try to walk the narrow road on police brutality, knowing that if he were to voice too much support, he would be attacked with claims that he is anti-police and un-American. And through all of this, I am still not ready to say goodbye because this is much more than people of color and LGBTQIA ever had – the chance to vote for principles instead of against those who offer the most harm, a president who saw US as human beings and not a block of voters, the knowledge that people looked at someone with skin like mine and decided yes, he is qualified to lead this country.

Just as President Obama, much of what social workers try to do is based on actions taken in the political arena. Politics are important to our field and we should be fully involved because legislation, good or bad, will have a huge impact on us and the communities we serve. So, what then can social workers take away from the Obama years? Well, he taught us that it is important to hold onto our principles and ideals that brought us into this occupation, and to embrace the possibilities for change. By modeling this process during his presidency he gave us a renewed economy, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, Federal divestment from for-profit prisons and the appointment of our first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. This is what the social work profession has always been about: social change and social justice. A field devoted to the advancement of humanity and assisting in making positive differences in people’s lives despite enormous challenges. One of the reasons that attract individuals to social work is the wish to uplift people, families, and communities to improve the quality of lives. I am certain that what has been ignited in most of us is our own possibility to become greater than who we are. Something that President Obama spoke of in many of his eloquent speeches.

We live in an era of technological advancements and globalization and for many, this has meant anger, fear and hate. While negative partisanship has always existed, it’s nourished in our online era by people’s ability to locate information from news sources and social-media that feeds and intensify their biases. I believe that one of the greatest disappointments of the Obama Presidency was that the Republicans were unable to separate their political differences from the fact that the president himself is an admirable man. I guess this was a problem for me because I see the genuine goodness in our president and the love he has for our nation. There are many personal heroes in my life: my best friends, professors, a protective brother, and my parents. But I also benefited from the example of a man whose public life showed that we are not defined or defeated by the adversities in our life. During these eight years, things were not easy but his distinctive and unique style has produced a kind of wistfulness in me and I will truly miss the 44th president of the United States of America! On Jan. 20, the political side of me will accept president-elect Trump, but the social worker in me will be saddened by the final signs of President Barack Obama’s farewell. For at an essential time in my life, he illustrated, modeled, and provided me his remarkable ideas of what hope and change could be and for that, I’ll miss him and the example he set for us.

Written by: Constance Dixon

Forward

As I begin my Spring 2017 semester at the Graduate College of Social Work, I have much to reflect on and look forward to. In my first semester, the Fall of 2016, I was balancing quite a load. In the midst of my foundation coursework, I was also working for my field practicum hours, a part-time job, and was planning my wedding to my now husband. Although this all sounds a bit much, I was honestly only able to do it smoothly and with joy because of my wonderful family and friends. Looking forward into the spring semester, I am excited for new classes. Plus, who doesn’t love a fresh start?

I am very excited to start off the Spring 2017 semester for many reasons other than a new class, work, and field schedule. For my field practicum site, we manage and help to facilitate Girls On the Run (GOTR), which is a non-profit program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grade. The GOTR mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Outside of the GCSW, I work for YES Prep Public schools part time as my school campus’ executive assistant. Normally, I do most administrative tasks and project management, with low emphasis on direct student interfacing. However, my field instructor has encouraged and planned with me so that we can start a GOTR program at my YES campus, which is one of the YES campuses which did not have the program before now. Thus, I will be the leader responsible for managing and facilitating the start-up of this evidence-based program at my school. It will be a great opportunity for me to gain field hours, while growing professionally as a social worker and leader, and of course, while benefiting my field site, work place, and our clients. I look forward to these upcoming opportunities be a catalyst for social justice in both my workplace and my field practicum site, through opportunities that the Graduate College of Social Work has provided.

Lastly, as we breach the topic of moving forward, I cannot discuss 2017 without discussing this month’s current events and how they connect to our role as social workers and advocates. As many were with the news of our president-elect, I was shocked, sad, angry, and withdrawn. Among many issues, I was mostly shocked as to how someone with such opposing values and attitudes from that of me as a social worker could have the power to change my country and world. Many of the clients I have worked with in the past and wish to work for in the future are directly impacted by this person’s words and the actions he incites. For quite a while after the electoral news, I had a very hard time entertaining any conversation remotely related to it. Then, soon after, I turned my energy into reading more about my social-work related interests such as policy, community organizing, and more. Also, I started taking more time to listen—to listen to my own thoughts and to the thoughts of others more than ever. Listening and learning in this time may not have made me less disappointed or dissatisfied with the election results, but it did bring me peace, which in turn has given me the opportunity for action. Action—to think about how I want my career and life to reflect solutions for my frustrations or anger. With action, I’m also committed to have more courageous conversations and to speaking up more often, even when it’s tough or uncomfortable. I am proud that the coursework at the Graduate College of Social Work allows students to prepare for conversations, actions, and careers such as these. It is obvious that we as social workers and others in helping professions are needed more now than ever, but also, how lucky for us that we have the skills and knowledge to tackle real problems. Our work is cut out for us. We shall move forward with even more grit and determination than before.

Written by: Amanda Rocha

Homesick Recipe

Written By: Kayla Gill

Attending the GCSW has been a great experience. Our diverse student population is made up of students from across the world. Many of those students like myself have come across the country to settle into Houston. I am originally from Lexington, KY where I lived my entire life prior to coming to Houston. There was this build up of excitement about coming to a new city and exploring all it had to often.  With the help of my mother and sister I drove 17 hours across the country to settle into this new life.

Twenty four hours after my arrival my mother and sister left to catch their plane and I was off to set up my apartment. I think after about two days of being there I started to feel very lonely and almost empty. I was no longer excited about being Houston or attending the GCSW and had many thoughts of returning home. At times I thought maybe I’m just nervous, this new place, new people and I just have not found my way yet. These thoughts would either turn into short spurts of happiness or tears, I was trying to convince myself that everything would be okay. During all this is when I finally realized that it may not be fear or sadness, I was homesick. I called my mom at least twice in the first week to tell her that I was coming home and each time she told me to give it some time, so I did.

I wish I could tell you that after a couple days I was fine and I started having the time of my life but that is simply not true. The recipe that helped my homesickness started at the GCSW with my cohort. I became acquainted with people and over time formed friendships. These are people I studied with, went out to eat with and called in times of need.  These genuine relationships became the closest thing that I had to family.

Throughout my time here I have also gained extended cohort family through classes and organizations that I joined. During my short time I joined the Macro Network, which is a small organization of macro students here the GCSW. The meetings are just monthly, but provide a chance to meet new faces and learn about different experiences going on in the Houston area. This small group helped me navigate my concentration and granted experiences that kept me focused on my education.

Aside from the GCSW I decided to get a small part time job to occupy time and of course earn side money. I started working in the Galleria area every weekend in retail. This was not my favorite job by far but what it did allow me to do was assimilate into the Houston culture. The mall is also the perfect place to see just how diverse Houston is. It was amazing to see various cultures represented and interact with people from all over the world.

Being a person of faith, finding a worship place that fit me was very important. I was able to find a great church home where I met new faces who soon became friends. Gaining them was a great way to not only make friends but a sense family inside of the community. Having them in my life brings a sense of peace that is much needed when away from family.

My homesick recipe is simple, get well acquainted with your cohort, get involved in some of the many organizations that the GCSW has to offer, use your own special interests to venture out in Houston and make sure to have fun while doing it.  This is the recipe that worked for me and it has proven to be efficient because I am entering my last semester here at the GCSW.  My hope with this blog is that it will help some student, who like me, traveled across the country and needs help to get through. YOU CAN DO IT!

Public Libraries: More than Just a Building Full of Books

By: Mary Beth Meier

When I was a sophomore in high school, I began working part-time at my town library in Connecticut and shortly after beginning college in Washington, DC, I accepted a student job at my campus library. Today, I continue to work in a public library in Texas while studying for my master’s degree. My experience working in both urban and suburban public libraries far exceeds my experience in social service agencies, but throughout these eight years, I witnessed a wide variety of library services similarly empower at-risk patrons. Through this experience, I recognize a visible link between the social work and library science professions, but this link continues to be a missing element in social work practice and research.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a library as “a place in which literacy, musical, artistic, or reference materials are kept for use but not for sale.” Libraries, however, go beyond this definition to provide programs and outreach services that promote early literacy and lifelong learning. These capacity building programs and outreach services particularly benefit traditionally marginalized populations, such as the elderly, young children, homeless, adolescents, refugees, or immigrants. Unlike social work, however, library programs and outreach services do not utilize the evidence-based process to incorporate best available research evidence, professional expertise, and patron values/preferences when making decisions.

Libraries already exist as a natural element of community life that benefit all its members, whether you are a stay-at-home mom bringing your three children to story time, a recent immigrant taking English Language Acquisition classes, or the starting high school quarterback studying for your physics test. This free and accessible learning environment supports diverse groups of people already motivated to enhance existing skills, engage with other community members, and learn about additional resources. Library programs and outreach services adequately respond to communities’ evolving and diverse needs, but yet, social work practice often neglects to incorporate this existing community strength in their delivery of services.

Ultimately, the social work and library science professions both aim to strengthen our communities through their provision of services and access to resources. The link between the social work and library science professions, although under-explored and under-utilized, proves imperative to promoting community well being. Rather than creating and funding separate services and outreach programs that effect the same results, public libraries and social service agencies should strategically partner to enhance their service delivery. Social work practice and research will truly benefit from the exploration of this essential, but often missing, element in our mission to achieving social justice.

 

Parenting while Studying

 

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Written by Shay Ugoh

As I begin to type this, I am sitting in the car rider line, waiting for my second grader to get out of school. Being a part-time student, a part-time employee, and a full-time mom, I am the epitome of a non-traditional student. People are amazed every single time that I disclose that I have four children. Yep, you read that right… all four of those children in the photo above belong to me! My journey to “parenting while studying” started very early on in my college career. The path I took that landed me pregnant before I was even two years out of high school, is an entirely different blog topic, but nevertheless there I was. Pregnant. I found out on my nineteenth birthday. I dropped my full load of college courses, and worked as much as I could to save money for the baby. After about two years of single parenting, I realized that I needed to make education a priority so that I could secure a better future for my son. I started taking classes, while working full time, and raising a child. Three years later, I met my future husband, and before I knew it I had grown up, gotten married, and had three more children.

In the fall of 2013, I decided to go back to school once and for all to obtain my bachelor’s degree. When classes started my youngest child was only three weeks old. How did I survive that? One word, swing. She loved her baby swing so much that even when it broke and stopped swinging, she still slept in it.

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Three years later, I have my bachelor’s degree and am a second year graduate student. Every day I wake up around 7am. It doesn’t matter the day. Sunday-Saturday my little ones start to wake up around 7, somedays earlier, and even when my husband is home to make their breakfast, I still can’t sleep in because of the noise. I stay home with my three year old during the day while the older kids are at school. The most commonly asked question I get is, “When do you get your work done?” The answer is, “Whenever and wherever I can!” It is quite common for my daughter to be sitting right next to me as I do my schoolwork. Some days, she sits on my lap. On this day, she insisted on sitting on top of my book!

kid-3

Being a parent while being in college is extremely difficult, and it’s not something that I would recommend. However, my children push me to be a better student. They don’t hesitate to ask me how my day was at school, or what kind of grades I am getting.  We all work together to get things done around the house, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments in the classroom. My non-traditional student experiences may not be as fun or event-filled as those that join organizations and live in a dorm, but I will be forever grateful for my second chance, and for my “roommates” that I get to share my student life with.

Self- care sustains you longer!

The GCSW program has never failed to emphasize the need for self- care. In 2 of my classes, I was asked to write out my self- care plan and challenged to execute it. I was also part of a video which stringed together a few commentaries by GCSW students on how we got through year 1. It is no surprise that it was only through the execution of our self- care plan which got us through the tough year. Grad school is an uphill hike for anyone who takes it on, even those who are brilliant. We are stretched for time, for energy, for assignments and for class participation. And all those readings! On top of all this, we have to fulfill internship hours while some of us also work at the same time. So I chose to write about self- care because of how pertinent it is to keep our passion burning.

Time is our most important resource. How we spend our time and what we are occupied with primarily is what we have to consider. As I looked at the time management window (what is urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and important and not urgent and not important), I realized that it was critical for me to have a list of my priorities and plan for the week. We tend to get too caught up with the mountain of things we need to do, not spreading it out according to its urgency and importance. Secondly, we all have a different perception of time. We tend to keep telling ourselves, “I have no time!”. Stress abounds when we think that we have too much to do and too little time. My strategy is to have a schedule of what I will do. When the course syllabus is released, all the due dates are input into my phone calendar and I have a clear weekly schedule on the assignments that are due and tests or readings that are required.  This helps me to stay on track with all that I need to do. Since my schedule is relatively fixed due to the internships and courses, I am also fully aware of the amount of free time I have. This is where I have to think about what the upcoming tasks are on my schedule and how I can plan something fun and relaxing. I have a list of activities which I like to do. My husband and I enjoy watching movies online and going to Miller outdoor theatre. We also have a strong support system within our local church community and often engage in hangouts with them. On Friday nights, we participate in the International Christian Fellowship at the University of Houston. Being International students, we wanted to be part of an international community in Houston too. We have made some solid friendships and also been on some retreats and camps with them. I also have a few close friends from the GCSW and we find time to enjoy what Houston has to offer. I love to dance and this is something I have committed to every Thursday night as part of my church dance team. Exercise helps me to keep fit and healthy, which in turn allows me to focus on all that I need to do. Traveling excites me and I’m always looking for a vacay! With all that I am committed to, I chose the activities which constitute part of my self- care plan. Everything else I can do will depend on my interests and in my desire to build relationships with people. It is thus, significantly important to ensure that we have a holistic, well rounded lifestyle which constitutes more than school. Social Work affects one deeply and intimately, with our core beings being shaken by the stories we hear, the barriers we see and the injustice we battle with. We talk about coping skills with our clients, it is thus important for us to cope with our tool bag of things we can use to manage. I like the usage of the DBT acronym, IMPROVE through the usage of Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxation, One thing at a time, Vacation, Encouragement.

In order to sustain in the long run, we need to take care of our body, soul, mind, spirit and ensure that we are taking care of ourselves first before we can take care of others.

Written by: Sujeeta E. Menon-Anand, 2nd year clinical student

Tales from Abroad

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Photo: GCSW students, faculty, and staff on the steps of Swansea University

Written by: Cassie

S’mae! (the Welsh equivalent of “Howdy!”) It has been a while since I posted, but, no, I was not left behind in the UK. I’ve just been especially busy the past few months working my way ever so close to graduation. Now that I’m back in the swing of things this semester, I wanted to share a little about what I learned and experienced during my study abroad trip this past spring.

To begin, we touched down in London and spent the first couple days just exploring. I embraced my status as a tourist by seeing the Crown Jewels, eating fish and chips by the Thames, and riding a double-decker bus. My favorite experience by far though was visiting Speaker’s Corner, a section of Hyde Park where people go to “get on their soapboxes.” Ladders have come to replace soapboxes, but impassioned speeches remain a staple. Crowds gather around to listen to the different speakers and even, sometimes, speak back to engage in heated discussion and debate. I enjoyed this sightseeing stop the most because I was able to hear about current events, like the refugee crisis, from a different country’s vantage point.

Our time in London wasn’t all fun and games, however. We were tasked with observing patterns of homelessness in the city, which provided a starting point for a comparative discussion between homeless services in Houston and London. And, two members of our group even had the opportunity to put their social work skills to use by helping someone in crisis on one of London’s bridges.

After London, we crossed the border into Wales to visit our home away from home: Swansea University. We were able to sit in on classes that were in session as well as attend private lectures by the talented faculty of the Department of Public Health, Policy, and Social Sciences. A highlight for many of us was an advocacy exercise facilitated by Professor Andrew Dunning. We were given a list of a variety of items (passport, cell phone, antique rug, family wedding dress, guitar, etc.) and asked to agree in small groups on the three items we would take with us in the wake of a natural disaster. Then, a representative of our group had to advocate on our behalf, and the representatives had to try to reach agreement on three items.

A lasting takeaway for me was that we must put aside our own personal agendas when serving as an advocate and instead focus on the needs of those we are representing. I was able to see this through the skillful advocacy of the Swansea students serving as representatives. SU has a concentration in advocacy and thus students receive specialized training. We were impressed by their skillfulness and understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of social policy. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from our peers across the pond.

We also did a bit of touring in Swansea. Local Gareth Davey, our amazing host and guide for the week, showed us around Swansea where we learned more about Dylan Thomas, Swansea’s famous son, as well as sampled traditional staples like Welsh cakes and laverbread at the local market. After a closing trip to the beautiful cliffs of the Gower Peninsula, it was time to head back to the familiar Houston heat and the GCSW. Back to reality, we closed the course with group presentations of our research comparing the practices and policies of the US and the UK in our various areas of interest.

As I said in my previous post, studying abroad in the UK was a long held dream of mine. When I tell people that I studied abroad in the spring, many do a double take; I suspect puzzling out how someone with a full-time job could manage such a thing. I’m glad to be able to introduce people to new possibilities, and I continue to be so grateful to the GCSW for the opportunity to make my dream come true.