It’s always weird looking back on pictures from a year ago and trying to imagine where we were with our own perspective on life. The picture below was taken on the way to the 2009 National Association of Social Workers-TX conference with some of my first friends from the program.
One thing I’ve found the GCSW doesn’t mention in the first year curriculum is personal growth… and lots of it. Yes, the assignments are designed to teach us how to be the best social workers we can be, but the one thing I’ve truly loved about this program is that you can’t be the best social worker you can be until you’re the best YOU that you can be. Experiential assignments, journaling, telling our story, connecting with others, practicing self-care… all of these are just a few examples of how this program teaches us not only how to effectively help others, but in doing so, how to become much more aware of ourselves and become the best individuals we were designed to be.
A few things I’ve learned in the past year (and a lesson to the new students)…
- People you are close to now may not be those you are close with a year from now. Your lens on life will change and with that, the way you see others behave may not be something you want to be around a year from now. At the same time, you will find yourself becoming closer to some people that you didn’t even know existed a few months ago.
- Positivity and some sense of meaning for what you do are essential to get through those late nights and social-free weekends.
- Find something you love about this program and go with it! Empower yourself. Love yourself. Love what you do and let others see it.
- Listen. You cannot learn by talking. If you are the type of learner (like me) who loves to process and share dialogue, try to do it on your own time. I recommend journaling or chatting with a close friend.
- Time management is important. Period.
- Self-care is crucial. It’s wonderful that you want to care for others, but if you don’t care for you, who will?
- Have a strong social support system in place. There will be days when you don’t even know what you need to do to get by because of the stress. Your loved ones will be your greatest gifts to step in and bring some joy, share a hug, send an inspirational quote, or just pick up a pizza and movie and help you turn your process-fried brain off.
- Network and get to know the faculty. There are some truly incredible people here at GCSW who care a lot about you and your learning. Get to know them.
- Be flexible. Life changes at the same time as your perspective on it is changing. Learn to flow with it.
- You can’t do everything. I don’t know what chromosome in social workers is marked with the “I can do everything, help everyone and still have time to care for me, my friends and family!”-gene, but it’s not possible. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that this is life… it’s messy and things inconveniently happen. We can only do so much and it’s almost like the sooner we figure that out, the more we can enjoy, learn and absorb, while still striving to do our best.
I wish all the future students of GCSW the best of luck in their adventure and hope it is remotely close to the great experience I’ve had. As I continue to learn and explore this wonderful field, I hope to see this list evolve – especially as I dive into the PhD curriculum this year!