Lifelong Learning Programme

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Training > Experiences

Personal Experience

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Language: English
Country: Lithuania
Typology: health care professionals
As I am still not certain what led me to become a social worker. Quite simply, I didn’t ever think I’d be a social worker. Throughout high school, I assumed I would dash off to college and major in some degree like Journalism or Teacher. I always knew I wanted to work with people. I just had no idea how I would actually do that. The more specific my future goals grew- the more vague my knowledge on how to get there became. Until one afternoon, I sat in the office of a woman with a career I so deeply admired and desired for my own life. She was the coordinatorr of the refugee youth program where I volunteered each week. On a daily basis, she mediated domestic violence disputes between generations and Gipsy discrimination. She had traveled abroad and she was asked to speak at big conferences. She worked at a major refugee social services agency, but she seemed to work with the whole international community in our town. She could walk through government housing projects and countless and waifs children would call her name; she was featured in all sorts of best-practices publications on refugee services. I knew she held several post-graduate degrees, and I assumed she’d studied in extremely specific fields with politics and international relations. I soon learned she was a social worker with both specializing in intercultural studies. When I eagerly inquired about her career path one afternoon, amidst college applications and big life choices, she summed it up with those two words- social work. At that point, I had never really ideated what it meant to be a social worker- I assumed it had something to do with government agencies or the school system. But she demonstrated, on a daily basis, the most basic principles of social work: responsibility to clients, the right to self-determination, and delivering empathy at all levels. To understand “social work”, she explained, I should read one book- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman. I pored over this quite distressing novel, and it exemplified the social problems of a refugee community and the various responses to their needs. The book’s painful conclusion rattled me, and provoked much thought about what professions could have prevented this tragic story. I made parallels between my mentor’s work and the mayhem between the book’s characters. It allowed me to view the multi-faceted dimensions of social work- being an advocate, counselor, mediator, and organizer for a marginalized population. I suppose that initial conversation- as a junior in high school- led to my conversion as a social work student. It seemed like the only right option- it would allow me to understand people, learn to listen to others, and empower communities. It encompassed all I wanted to do in my life, and it finally gave a name to that elusive goal of “helping people” I held. However, my true confirmation of my choice to be a social worker came on my first day of class at NYU, when my Intro to Social Work professor handed out our syllabus. What else happened to be listed as an assignment but The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down- the very same book that sparked what it meant to be a social worker for me. I've kept a well-worn, highlighted copy with me since that- a constant bit of affirmation, and a reminder of why I first found myself in this field.

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