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