My experiences in Hong Kong and China

by Heather
Posted February 19, 2010

Let me start by saying “ni hao.” I only learned a couple of Chinese words, but I had a blast on my trip!

I’m going to start and end this with the same sentence. If you ever have an opportunity to take a class abroad or an international field internship, don’t pass it up! I was fortunate enough to participate in a study abroad class to Hong Kong and China last summer. The class focused on comparing child welfare policies between China and the US. While in China I focused my interest on learning about children with disabilities, the stigmas placed on the children and their family, and the resources available to these families.

The first week of the trip we went to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we attended an international social work conference (Promoting Harmony and Justice in a World of Conflict), hosted by the City University of Hong Kong. The conference featured many different professors from all over the world as well as several professors from UH. The GCSW’s own Dean Ira Colby was the key note speaker. I was also able to interact with social work students from Hong Kong and learn what their experiences are and how they are different from mine. While attending the conference in our free time, I was able to tour Hong Kong and experience some of the culture. I traveled around Hong Kong using their many different transportation systems. While in Hong Kong I visited Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak, Aberdeen fishing village, Stanley Market, and Repulse Bay.

We then flew to China and landed in Beijing. In Beijing we visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and learned the history surrounding it. We also visited the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the 2008 Olympic Village, and Ming Tombs Museum. My favorite place we visited in Beijing was the Great Wall. This was an experience I will never forget. We also went to Xian, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Shanghai while in China.

Throughout the week in China we visited several agencies. One that stood out to me was the mental hospital we were able to tour. We had to get special permission to tour the hospital. It was interesting to see how the mental hospital was run due of the great stigma that is placed on mental health in China.

Overall, my experiences in Hong Kong and China were amazing and I am so happy I had the opportunity to be a part of a study abroad class. Emerging yourself in the culture is the best way to learn and gain a whole new perspective of what social work is about. If you ever have an opportunity to take a class abroad or an international field internship, don’t pass it up!

The best mentor I have ever had

By Shu


Finding a mentor in graduate school is extremely important for both MSW and PhD students. When you are confused and struggling, a mentor who knows you well can offer individualized and constructive advice to help you make well-informed decisions about important aspects of your academic life, like coursework, internships, volunteering and career planning. Their generous and honest sharing of the unspoken rules of graduate school can save you tons of time and unnecessary stress. Along your academic journey, mentors can also act your graduate school skills coach, facilitating your development in areas, such as time management, work-life balance, team work, personal growth, professional networking and self-care. Then, when you succeed in your endeavors, your mentor will also be the first to celebrate your accomplishments and encourage you to set even higher goals for yourself!

It is not always easy to find a good mentor due to factors such as willingness, availability, compatibility, and personal and professional styles. It is an amazing feeling when you find someone who is a good fit for you because you know who you can go to for just about any question. I find that I feel refreshed and relaxed after every single conversation with my mentor; I always leave the room with clearer thoughts and better solutions to my problems.

While mentors are essential for students who seek advice, an excellent mentor can play many additional roles. In my experience, my mentor has been my supervisor, professor, advisor, and friend as well, changing the course of my life as doctoral student. Over the past 2 years in the PhD program, I have been fortunate to have Dr. Monit Cheung as not only my mentor, but as the best mentor I have ever had. She has played so many important roles during my time here at GCSW and abroad. I am grateful that we chose each other for my PhD journey.

As a supervisor, she has been extremely understanding and patient with students like me, who have only had limited previous research experiences. Rather than being surprised or disappointed, she has trained me during every step and has allowed me time to learn and adjust. She has tried her best to maximize my growth as a student under her mentorship. When I was having trouble with my school-related finance, she cared about my struggling and helped following up on my payroll.

As a professor, Dr. Cheung has spent an unbelievable amount of time preparing her class lectures, and consistently updating her course syllabi and teaching materials. She encourages us to engage in college events such as faculty candidate interviews to support the college and learn from the experiences.

As an advisor, she has made herself available to me almost 24/7. In addition to our weekly face-to-face meeting, she replies to my emails very quickly, even when she is abroad. Her availability is very impressive and extremely helpful. She always respects me and my time, and arrives on time for our appointments. When she has very rarely been late, she informs me as early as she can, with detailed explanation and sincere apology. Though she is a full professor, she never acts as though her time is worth more than mine.

As a mentor, Dr. Cheung has advised me on a wide range of problems in my personal and professional life. She has spent her valuable time listening to me, showing sincere empathy, and offering practical advice. In addition, she and her family have generously prepared a lot of delicious free food at the college events and at their home parties. I couldn’t remember how many leftovers I have taken from these events to feed myself and my family. They all have helped to make ends meet on a tight student budget.

As a friend, she has shared her life stories and lessons with me. Her experiences have inspired me and I have learned so much from her wisdom. When my parents came to visit me from China, Dr. Cheung and her family took them out for lunch. My parents were impressed and touched by her thoughtful care for me. They left the U.S. happily with huge gratitude for Dr. Cheung and her family.

I have been in the U.S. for 7 years as an international student. I always want to go back to China and I have already started the count down. However, among the happy expectations for finally returning home, one piece of my heart feels sad. I know that sadness is connected to my relationship with Dr. Cheung, who is always my go-to person. I am so used to contacting her at any time for anything that I need help, and she is always available and helpful. I cannot imagine my post-graduation life without seeing her every week.

Dr. Cheung is my role model (although I don’t skip on sleep and food as much as she does!) and the light of my PhD life. I will be forever grateful for all of her love, advice, and contributions in every single aspect of my life!

How do I live a creative life?


By Maurya

While waiting to meet with one of my children’s teachers, I gazed at three windows that adorned the top of a 15 foot wall of the school foyer. I watched a cloud slowly pass one window, and then another. I impatiently waited for it to pass the third window, and when it did not spread fast enough; I leaned to the right to capture its essence from the second window.  Oh, how nice it would have been had I had my 35 mm camera so that I could have captured those few minutes of serenity in a photograph.

Photography allows me to capture images such as these and has become a part of my commitment to living creatively. In fact, photography has become a huge component of my self-care. Yes, self-care, self-care, self- care! We hear about it in our social work programs, licensure supervision and our continuing education training, but do we really know how to practice self-care by living creative lives? For many of us, there is little time within our daily cycle because of the imbalance of being plagued with immediate, instantaneous, “I needed that yesterday” within our technology-driven world. So in these instances, like my three minute wait for the teacher, I relish in the opportunity to have a moment of visual creativity.

Admittedly, I was tempted to pull my camera phone out and take some pictures and to even create a collage. I restrained myself and breathed in the moisture of those curvaceous cotton ball puffs, and I exhaled the vapors of each droplet. I imagined I was seeing the mountains of Mount Rushmore or the bimodal peaks of Blueridge, GA. I fantasized about being a girl again; lying in the soft grass and gazing up into a sky filled with …“Mrs. Glaude?” called the teacher. “Yes.”

My fantasy was quickly interrupted, and I was off to another obligation in the daily maze of “things to do.” It’s because of this maze that I encourage balance and the prioritization of creative self-care. This meeting was just one of many amidst my own part-time work and full-time doctoral studies. So you might wonder how I incorporate time for living a creative life. I have avowed to make creativity a priority. I take time to craft, paint and take photographs about once a month. And when I sign up for something at the kids’ schools, I strategically sign up for tasks like assembling the classroom auction basket because this allows me to use my creativity and have a quiet presence at the school. Yet, there are times when I am not feeling so artistic, and in these instances, I have to be even more creative!

I recently completed my qualifying exam, and near the end, I was stomped, braindead, drained and fatigued. So, I took a leap of courage and went to the city that makes me feel rejuvenated and refreshed – New Orleans.  NOLA is where I became engaged and married and this spunky city is also where I completed my MSW, became a mother to my two wonderful kids and survived four major hurricanes! The aroma of the mighty Mississippi gives me life! So, while sitting in my French Quarter hotel room, I typed and typed away at my qualifying exam. I only took breaks to eat. While I continued to mange (French for “eat”) at the local marketplace, I listened to amateur musicians and watched innovative artists of all kinds. This jazz town made me come to life! My three day trip was just what I needed to get my creative juices going again, and yes, I passed my exam!

We exert a great deal of energy – physical and emotional. Accordingly, there is a need to revive, rejuvenate and refresh! Therefore, we must find ways to be creative and to ensure self-care. Whether it’s gazing out the window and creating cloud animals, cooking a new meal, or even capturing images with a 35 mm. In small or big moments, I assert, we must access our creative selves.

To this end, I will suggest a few tasks. First, think of a couple of ways through which you show your creativity. Second, schedule an hour or so, once a month, bi-weekly or weekly to spend time doing one of these activities. Actually schedule an activity on your calendar in your phone! Third, find a “creativity accountability partner” and hold one another accountable to finish a project regularly (i.e. drawing, quilting, cooking, scrap booking, writing, blogging, song-writing, etc.). *Note: This will require you to unplug and put all work and “tech-no-ference” away so that you may experience creativity. I challenge you to rejuvenate and revive your creative self.  And, if you’re so inclined to really be daring, gaze out the window and watch the clouds make new shapes while you breathe in confidence, kindness and courage. Seize a moment of serene self-care and take in the creative greatness. “Carpe diem”!  beach

If I Could Leave You With One Social Work Superpower

Tiffany Photo       by Tiffany

As social work students, we become equipped with a wealth of knowledge and practical resources to help our clients. Attending the GCSW program is like attending a superhero convention where you stop at different booths to acquire superpowers for helping those in need. “Got anxiety? Here, try Mindfulness.” “Got depression? Here, try psychotherapy and Prozac.” “Homeless? Here’s a list of shelters in Houston you can try.” “Fighting against racial discrimination? Stop here to fill your empowerment belt!” When we leave class and enter into our field placement, though we sometimes wonder why our superpowers are not working.

I arrived at my first year internship eager to use the skills on my tool belt with the residents at Freedom Place, a residential treatment center for girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking. I was excited to teach the residents a weekly dance class, for example, but things didn’t go as planned when in week one I attempted to show them how to do a plie and a tondue. By the second week, almost all the girls were just sitting along the walls, watching me dance, requesting their own songs. I was a stranger, asking them to be vulnerable with their bodies by moving through space in ways they had never attempted.

When I was 15, a very wise woman sat across from me at a Barnes and Noble and gave me simple, life changing advice. I was in the midst of a spiritual transformation and wanted to share what God was doing in my life with my family and friends, but nobody seemed to be listening. She said, “Tiff, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” It’s a bit of a familiar phrase, but the trick is figuring out what caring looks like for a social worker. I thought I would be able “fix” my friends and their problems just by telling them about Jesus. I had one tool in my tool belt, and I only knew one way to use it—but each of my friends and family members had different concerns, perspectives, and needs. Caring for them would require learning about those differences, adopting a multitude of approaches, and, honestly, carrying a heavier tool belt.

Once I realized the residents weren’t digging my ballet techniques or Taylor Swift jazz routine, I asked—out of desperation—what they were wanting to learn. “Hey Miss! Can you do the Nae Nae?” From then on, I tried to choose music and dance genres that fit their interests, skill levels, and cultures. I showed them that I cared: I taught hip hop and salsa, I left out the plies, and I got more participation.

More often than not, if people are seeking services from a social worker, they are in need of help; they are in a vulnerable position, and helping them requires care. Our tone, rhetoric, body language and other nuances can determine whether they’ll return next week for their therapy session, or never seek out help again. Our knowledge of interventions and evidence-based treatments is moot if we do not first establish a therapeutic alliance. This process of building rapport begins during assessment. It’s not rocket science; it is simply having the eyes and ears to notice struggle, denial, pain and strengths in a person. It’s the difference between recording parents’ marital status on an intake form, and noticing how a girl’s eyes welled up when she whispered “divorced.” It’s pointing out an overlooked success: “Wow! It’s amazing you finished high school on time with two toddlers at home. Not many people are that dedicated to their education.” Building this therapeutic alliance continues throughout the treatment process.

But here’s what’s hard about it: social work is a helping profession where you constantly pour out your kindness, patience and resources and usually don’t get anything back. Our clients have been through hard places! In most social contexts, when we are personable and warm it is reciprocated. However, our clients are not our friends.  It is like inserting quarters in a gum ball machine but never seeing that sweet multi-colored ball come spiraling down. That’s not to say social work or therapy is not rewarding: in this past year I’ve experienced many fulfilling moments. However, we can not expect clients to reciprocate the warmth and empathy we give. We offer this part of ourselves not to get something in return, but to create a safe place for clients to receive the help they need without experiencing shame.

Psycho-education is an essential aspect to any treatment intervention, but if it is coming from a stranger’s mouth it will fall on deaf ears. Building rapport provides the soil for cognitive shifts to eventually take root.

Policy is Social Work

Andrea Photo     by Andrea

The world doesn’t know enough about our profession, except for that some us probably work for CPS. People have less of a clue that policy work is a huge part of social work’s mission and its values. In the NASW Code of Ethics there is even a section called “Social and Political Action” (6.04). As social workers it is our responsibility to “engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully” and “should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice” (NASW Code of Ethics 6.04).

Even if you plan to work in a micro setting, you still have the responsibility to advocate for your clients whether that will be to make efforts to expand Medicaid services in your state or talking to your local school district officials to make policies on hiring social workers so we can put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. Whatever you have a passion for, I am sure there are policies that need to be improved or need to be implemented to help whatever cause you are passionate about. It is crucial to remember that policy is a part of social work!

Being politically engaged is critical tos our roles as social workers. Being politically engaged can vary in many ways, ranging from simply going to your local voting booth (very important) to running for office. Being engaged can also include: talking to your legislators, registering people to vote, tracking bills, watching debates, going to civic engagement events, doing policy research, writing policy briefs, bringing awareness to social issues, etc.

I have never been so involved (besides voting and keeping up with the media) until this past semester. Here are some highlights of my recent advocacy experience:

  • I went to several Policy Insiders events, where I got informed about current issues such as, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) and the Syrian Refugees arriving to the U.S.
  • I went to a workshop of how social workers can get political engaged, and I got tips on the process of running for office. This workshop got me thinking about running for office someday.
  • I followed the Houston Mayoral election and the Presidential Primaries election, which was the first primary I voted in.
  • I tagged along with UH GCSW, UHCL and UHD Social Work students to go visit the capital for Social Work Advocacy Day.
  • I talked to my district’s Texas State Senator, Sylvia Garcia, for the first time at the Texas Hispanic Senate Caucus’s Latino Summit (held at the GCSW) and I got to know her agenda for the upcoming legislation session.
  • For my Advanced Social Policy Analysis class, I wrote a policy brief about the gap of post-release services for unaccompanied minors and I have sent it to fellow congressmen and congresswomen that their district is a part of Harris County, which is the county that is receiving most of the unaccompanied minors.
  • Lastly, last week I attended the Policy 2.0 Conference at St. Louis. At this conference not only did I learn many new things about social policy, but I also got to present my policy research, which was a comparison analysis in between the American and Canadian immigration system in regards to their policies towards unaccompanied minors.

If you are unhappy with how the system is set up or that your current legislators don’t appropriately represent your community, stop complaining about who is at the policy-making table. Bring yourself to that table! Don’t wait to be invited because that is less likely happen. You don’t have to be in office to influence social change, although it would be great to have more social workers in public office. You can write letters to your legislators and meet with them. You can attend public meetings within your community. Just put yourself out there, so you can be political involved.

As a student, there are several opportunities to be politically engaged, especially when the UH GCSW offers these opportunities just a few steps away from your classroom. So what are you waiting for? Go out and be involved! Go do some political social work!



What brought me to Houston from China?

Shu Zhou     by Shu

As an international student from China, it was hard for me to make the decision to  study abroad and leave my friends and family behind. It became even harder when I needed to choose a PhD program. I mean, wherever I chose is where I would stay for at least 4 or 5 years, and there are so many options! I travelled around the U.S. for campus interviews and visits, and sought advice from many of my PhD friends. After months of exhausted researching, my final decision was made in April 2014. While some other programs appeared attractive as well, Houston and the GCSW have a couple of strengths that are very important for me and my family.

  1. Funding: Most importantly, GCSW has Graduate Tuition Fellowship that can cover my coursework tuition. In addition, I was offered a research assistant position that provided a monthly stipend and President-PhD scholarship. On top of that, I had regarding say which professor I would work for. With the 6.5 currency exchange rate between Chinese Yuan and U.S. Dollars, I would not have been able to come here without the helpful financial package. Actually, I was surprised that international students are eligible for many of GCSW’s funding sources, just like domestic students. The flexible financial support not only brought me an educational opportunity, but also warmed and inspired me emotionally in the spirit of “borderless education.”
  2. Study Abroad: I have experienced huge personal and professional benefits from studying abroad in the U.S. I highly cherish the chance to explore more about the world, especially before I carry more family responsibilities like parenting. I was excited to know that GCSW leads many study abroad trips to a variety of countries and regions. For example, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, Cuba and U.K. are recent study abroad options, and the list continues to grow. It is convenient that these study abroad courses are scheduled at different times throughout the semester and selectable for both MSW and PhD level students.
  3. Student Organizations: Student organizations are definitely an important part of my school life because loneliness is one of the biggest problems for international students. We face language challenges and culture barriers on a daily basis. As a prospective student back in 2014, I was aware that PhD cohorts tend to be comprised of a very small number of students. That made me value the role of student organizations in my PhD life even more. I was glad to learn that GCSW has many interesting student organizations that represent different academic, professional and cultural interests. For example, the Association of Asian American Social Workers, Hispanic Student Association, MACRO Student Organization and Clinical Leadership Society are a few popular student organizations at the GCSW. They actively promote professional and social activities among social work students. I desperately needed such opportunities to expand my social network and support system.
  4. Diversity-friendly: Another factor I considered when selecting a school was whether the university and the city are diversity-friendly. As a minority immigrant, I want to be safe and comfortable in the community where I stay. As a major port city, Houston is the most diverse city in the nation. It is amazing to me that over 90 languages are spoken here! When I was here briefly for my campus interview, I had the chance to meet and talk with professors and students from different cultural heritages. I felt accepted and welcomed. I knew I wouldn’t need to worry about being a “stranger” in public due to my race and appearance. The diversity of people and cultures also had another unexpected benefit: besides New York and California, Houston probably has the largest and best China Town in the U.S.! I absolutely enjoy their Asian supermarkets and restaurants with delicious authentic Chinese food.
  5. Opportunities: As a married student, I had to keep my spouse’s needs in mind and ease our family relocation as much as I could. When I was applying for a PhD program, my husband, who is also Chinese, was about to get his master of economics. We agreed that I would go to a place that could provide some good opportunities for him as well. Houston was a great choice for us because he didn’t need to decide if he will study or work at that point. Regarding PhD-level educational opportunities, there are many options such as UH, UH-Downtown, Rice, and Houston Baptist University. As for employment, oil industry companies and banks are all over the place. Our Chinese friends who work in Houston told us local companies welcome international employees, which was very important for us.
  6. Future Career: Since I want to return home to China after graduation, I evaluated how GCSW can help my future career in China. I met with some professors who originally came from China and learned that they had conducted numerous research projects about Asian and Asian-American populations. They had also collaborated with other Chinese professors and visiting scholars. Of course, they have maintained good relationships with different universities in China. Our conversations comforted me and assured that I would be able to continuously build up my professional network and research projects with their resources and support, instead of starting over after moving back to China. Meanwhile, I still needed to be prepared to work in the U.S. following graduation just in case. Following the suggestions of my PhD friends and with the help of Google and Facebook, I tracked down the current employment of some past PhD graduates of GCSW. Apparently, they were competitive in the job market, especially in the state of Texas. The search results gave me some hard evidence to prove the GCSW’s reputation and quality of education. My strong confidence in my future career began at that point, even before I actually started the PhD program.

It has been a long way from China to Houston, and my expectations are as high as my investments. As a 2nd year PhD student, I won’t lie and say that my first year here was perfect; growing always comes with pain. What I can say is that the primary needs of me and my family have been satisfied here. We appreciate the many wonderful strengths of Houston and the GCSW!

Study Abroad: Dreams Come True (for Part-Time Students, Too!)

cassie-photo-  by Cassie

Call me biased, but when I hear the phrase “study abroad,” I imagine unencumbered undergrads, able to relocate for months at a time. Not 30-something-full-time teachers, who are also in graduate school, with a host of other ongoing, local commitments. Fortunately, this March I will be able to challenge that image, for myself and others, as I join the GCSW for the Learning Abroad UK trip.

To study abroad in the UK has remained at the top of my “bucket list” for many years. As an undergraduate, I did not pursue a similar opportunity because I allowed my anxieties about leaving home and my fear of failure to override my better judgment, a decision I have regretted ever since.

Fast-forward a decade. Studying at the GCSW has helped me to identify the root of my primary professional goal: to facilitate challenging and meaningful conversations. As a LMSW, one setting in which I can see myself pursuing this goal is a hospice – facilitating more authentic and reflective conversations among family members and terminally ill clients as they prepare for their death.

So, this learning abroad trip to the UK will allow me not only to challenge my personal limitations but also to support my professional goal through visiting the birthplace of two large cultural shifts around death and dying; the first hospice and the first Death Café began there.

I’m grateful to the GCSW for helping one of my long held dreams to come true. The college is continually growing and revising itself to meet the needs of its students. To me, one reflection of this is offering brief study abroad options that allow even busy Weekend College students to participate. So, stay tuned. I look forward to posting an update on what I learned and experienced when I return!

Finding the Space to Take a Breathe

Emme Bozone Photo       By Emme

Have you ever had one of those crazy semesters (or years) that seem like you can never find the down time you need. Your schedule is one thing after another and you don’t stop until you sleep at night. When you do have some type of break you have an errand to run, homework to catch up on, or a place to be. At first you can keep up with it, but as the days turn into weeks and weeks into months you can feel your body slowing down a little more, your attitude waning, and patience a little less then normal.

A major emphasis during my foundation semester was the importance for self-care. It felt like every class spoke on it, every lecture contained some tidbit as to why it was important, and every professor had a horror story of life without self-care. I’ll admit, we may have poked fun at how much self-care was talked about that semester; but each semester I’ve grown in my understanding of how to do self-care in this season of life and how to not.

  1. Coffee shops: I love a lot of things in life, and coffee shops certainly come in somewhere near the top! The aroma of coffee, music, and opportunity to people watch are what makes the experience. Many afternoons are spent with a friend or two sitting with a good cup of coffee, working on some homework, and chatting about life. Some of my favorites include Blacksmith, Boomtown, PJ’s Coffee House, and Agora.
  1. Sprint Triathlon: One of the summer classes I took was Shame, Empathy and Resiliency with Brene Brown (a must take class!). Sports or any physical fitness related activity is often a source of shame for me, yet completing a triathlon was on my bucket list. A few friends rallied around and we all signed up for the Lonestar Sprint Triathlon in Galveston. Training gave me a goal to work towards and a new outlet for taking care of myself.
  1. Dog Park: Growing up I was never an animal person, but somehow Texas has turned me into one. Recently I adopted a dog, Penny, from a local rescue. We generally make it to the dog park three times a week. Penny is a very social pup with humans and helps me make many new friends! It’s a good time to be outside, away from normal responsibilities, and meet new people. My favorite is the Johnny Steele Dog Park as we get to take a walk along the bayou before going in to play.

I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to take care of my self during graduate school. I’ve been able to try new hobbies, make new friends, and learn about who I am as an individual, a friend, and a professional. How you care for yourself helps shape your journey in graduate school and the experience you have. Don’t be afraid to step out and try new things or rekindle an old hobby!

Networking and The Power

Jarvis Photo  By Jarvis

How often have you heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” My guess is that you probably hear it every so often, especially when it comes to making progress and moving around in the professional and academic worlds.  I never realized just how important and true this phrase was until a few months ago.  I would always hear it, but I would never take the time out to really analyze the saying and try to apply it to my everyday life.

Last semester, I enrolled in an elective class, Managing Human Service Organizations with Professor Jennifer Battle (whom is freaking amazing and knows EVERYone in the Houston Social Work World), and I learned a wealth of helpful knowledge.  One of the many highlights of the course was Networking and the power of it.  We would spend at least 15 minutes each class discussing networking and “the who you know phrase” would always come up somehow.  A part of our 3-hour session each week with Professor Battle included a guest speaker lecture on a different topic that we covered in class.  Professor Battle would bring in a different colleague each week from various agencies and companies in the Houston area to speak with our class and give us their best advice.  The thing that amazed me most every time a guest speaker presented was not actually the information presented, but instead was the relationship that Professor Battle would have with each of her colleagues.  They all spoke so highly of her and you could clearly tell that our professor had built great relationships and rapport with her colleagues and that she was very well respected in the social work world. It was very clear that they would probably help her in any way they could if she ever needed it.  It wasn’t until a random Tuesday night class when it finally clicked in me.  “IT’S DEFINITELY NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT WHO YOU KNOW!”

It seemed so obvious, but for so long I never really understood the saying.  I learned that if one wants to grow, one must network.  In the social work profession, it is nearly impossible to make change alone and without the help and cooperation of our entire community, we won’t be that successful.  It is up to us as social workers to build our networks and help each other so that we can help our clients whom are the people that depend on us the most.  Networking and connecting with other social workers is essential and I’m so glad that I finally realized the power of networking and connecting with other social workers!

Life Balance

Gardenia Photo   By Gardenia

I remember rocking my daughter back and forth, back and forth, as I fed her and nurtured her body while attempting to nurture my brain. Once she was lulled back into her sweet sleep I continued pouring over books and wondering how to fashion my written words in such a way that they would be a true expression of everything I felt inside, each and every thought I wished to convey. The process of balancing my life had become considerably trickier since the birth of my daughter three months prior and I was tired so much of the time. I went to complete my BSW when she was just 3 months old and I started with an 18 hour semester. My husband was patient and supportive, but we were 20 and 21 with a newborn and a whole slew of responsibilities that we did not know yet how to navigate. I had to learn through trial and error how to allocate my time, how to make the most of every minute, and to just allow myself the grace to make mistakes. Balancing family, work, and graduate school requires knowing that there will be times when it feels as if there is an overwhelming amount expected from you that cannot possibly be extracted from your tired mind and body. However, there is a curious thing that occurs when it feels like there is not possibly a way in which you can press forward and excel. From within the recesses deep within self and the support of those around you there arises the drive to push forward. Having confidence in your abilities while simultaneously being vulnerable in reaching out and allowing a support network to help soothe the worry that sometimes arises and provide encouragement that is of often needed, can be key components in helping you progress in your social work journey.

Your journey is your own and the aspects of your life that you so carefully balance help create the intricate fabric of who you are and comprise the unique imprint you can make on the social work profession. How exciting to know that our lives and all we balance can be an asset in creating who we are; molding our perspective and impacting our desire to make lasting change.