When initially starting college, I knew nothing of it as I came from an underprivileged family who not once had ever entertained the notion of attending college. Coming from a Hispanic family, the expectations were to get married and be a good a housewife; however, I decided on my own to explore college, even if at that time I could not tell the difference between undergraduate and graduate school. I would like to say my determination was apparent from the very beginning, but it was far from the truth.
The disappearance of my father a few years prior to the death of my only grandparents I had contact with, derailed me from beginning my undergraduate career successfully. I stayed up nights partying, and missed many classes. It was detrimental to my personal life, work, and academics. The partying continued for over a year and it was not until I woke up in the hospital from alcohol poisoning that I realized the vast amount I had lost. However, it was nothing in comparison to what I could still lose. I still had my family and their support.
Shortly after, I began transforming my life because I desired to be a person that my family could be proud. I no longer wanted to be a disappointment. That was the year that I found my desire to go into social work. After my realization that I needed to change, around Fall 2010, I became immersed, focused and determined on becoming successful during my undergraduate academic career and finishing off strong. I rode public transportation and getting to school was an hour and a half away, one way. Not even managing full-time school, sorority responsibilities, personal life, work and an nternship deterred me from becoming a social worker. However, managing it all taught me to be highly effective in time management and prioritizing. During my undergraduate academic career in social work, I had the fortune of having experienced professors. The assignments were based on real life dilemmas and situations I would encounter working in the social work profession. In particularly, I remember my motivational interviewing class. Daily we would partner up with someone in class and practice our skills.
Eventually, we earned the opportunity to speak with people outside of our classroom who had no idea we were practicing our motivational interviewing skills. Unlike working with my peers, I had to organize my thoughts fast to respond within an appropriate time frame because it was being recorded, it made it that more challenging. As nerve racking as it was to play the audiotape in front of a group, the feedback and practice made me better at guiding clients to resolve ambivalence that they might carry. In all my classes, group work and activities was integrated into our curriculum.
Working in class projects, like a presentation, gave us all the opportunity to work together to share a common identity regardless of our backgrounds. One memorable presentation in my drug and alcohol class had us in a group of ten. As big as the group was, it was highly effective. We collaborated, deliberated and each contributed. These types of group works gave me the foundation for the ability to work together in a multidisciplinary team, which is vital in the social work field. Another life changing experience was the study abroad program in Paris, France.
It helped further my crosscultural competence by giving me a broader understanding and appreciation of a culture that was different than my own. It enlightened me to reflect upon my own culture and how we are perceived and to be conscious of stereotypes around the world. Furthermore, it taught me how to maneuver and communicate around a new city while having a language barrier, mainly relying on understanding nonverbal communication much better. During my undergraduate academic career, to stay immersed in my community and learn new skills, I joined a multicultural sorority, Sigma Alpha Zeta. I was elected and voted into the several positions.
As philanthropy chair, which held me primarily responsible for planning the annual fundraising event towards domestic violence awareness, I had to learn how to organize and communicate effectively when coordinating speakers and performers. Another position I held, due to my calm and composed demeanor, was sisterhood chair. I often utilized conflict resolution for mediating between group members. I would take them step through step, each person would have an opportunity to state what was bothering them and collectively come up with a solution that worked for all. Lastly, I held the academic chair.
I had the responsibility of assisting in raising the GPA of those falling behind. As the youngest of my siblings, I always looked up to them, but this was my turn to be an example. Primarily I focused on being a role model on how | achieved high grades. I coordinated study times with them and exampled my study habits. Now finally realizing my goal of becoming a case manager, working with Catholic Charities assisting the homeless and low-income population, I continue to utilize all that I learned in school. Of course, it has not come without it’s own challenges of balancing my personal and professional life.
A common issue I find myself doing is taking the stress back home. To deal with all the stress from both work and my personal life I dedicate at least 15 minutes each day to meditate. Not only does it distress, it clears my mind of any other distractions to allow me to revisit and analyze any conflicts that occurred during the day. I rethink how I could have handled it differently if better. If a similar situation is to occur again, I am more prepared. Additionally, regardless of how busy I might be, I exercise regularly, take breaks, sleep full nights, and eat healthy.
Healthy habits keep me from burning out, thinking rationally, and keeping a positive attitude. It got me through my undergraduate academic career, and it will continue to work for me during my graduate school. I could not have successfully completed my undergraduate career without my support systems, and I know they will continue to be a huge part of my success during my graduate career. Primarily, the new profound relationship with my family once I got back on track helped me immensely. They supported me throughout my entire journey.
When I graduated, my family articulated how extremely proud they were of me. Once again they were ecstatic when I mentioned the idea of heading back to school for my master’s degree. My family has professed that I will always have their support in any way if I ever need anything while striving to become better. They see me attending the school of social work at UMKC as a great opportunity to better myself. As I was the first in the entire family to attend college and graduate, they want me to again be the first to attend graduate school so as to one day inspire the new generation in my family.
Furthermore, since then, I have created many positive friends along this trek. Many of who are already in a Masters program themselves or graduated. A good friend of mine since the beginning of college is currently attending a dual masters program for social work and public health at San Diego State University. Often, he details what his journey has been like through since starting graduate school and has encouraged me to pursue my goal of becoming a social worker because he has mentioned he knows I can do it. He is an example of what my friends are like, positive and goal orientated.
I know I can count on them if I ever need any support, advice, or guidance throughout my graduate academic career. Additionally, I got married not too long ago. My husband, being a college graduate himself, who is looking into UMKC graduate school, is a very strong support system. He has always encouraged me to continue my studies. During my undergraduate career, he was another strong support system. He acknowledges and fully supports the high value I place on attending the school of social work at UMKC. He has expressed I can count on him for any type of support ranging from financially to emotionally.
In fact, we have discussed we would accommodate study times into our own lives, so we can study together. Thave come along way from where I was more than 5 years ago. Where I currently stand academically and professionally is a completely different person than I was back then. However, I do not concede to the idea that I am perfect. One can only strive to better oneself. That is what I am trying to do right now by seeking higher education. I seek to further develop my competence level and not be deterred as I have been in the past to help people by my educational limitations.
I know I am capable of much more than the knowledge and experiences | currently possess. Additionally, I know I am not the only one who believes that to be true in me. Had it not been for me completing my internship before I completed y undergraduate career, I would have been offered a job position with my internship place YWCA of San Diego, Becky’s House. With Catholic Charities, when I informed them I was looking into graduate school, they offered me a higher pay to stay with them. My potential is limitless.
I just need to seek further preparation and education. In furthering my competence level, I hope to gain the knowledge that would allow me to develop personally as well. Competence would allow me to feel more confident about myself. It would allow me to go beyond my comfort zone. I am comfortable where I currently stand but as someone who I admire and respect told me, to feel comfortable meant you no longer were developing as a person. Venturing out would expose me to new context, and would teach me how to act in new circumstances.