Crazy Schedule - 1.5 weeks down, several more to go!
I've only been a grad student for 1.5 weeks now, but I feel the need to let everyone know how it is all going so far (plus I think this whole blogging thing is theraputic to me in some way). So far I am really enjoying it! I have very long days, but it isn't too bad yet. I am taking four classes: Human Behavior, Social Welfare Policies and Institutions, Social Work Practice, and Human Diveristy (taught by the one and only Edgardo). These classes meet once a week and are 2.5 hours, which amazingly goes by rather quickly (minus the library orientation we had on Monday, seriously, I am a grad student, I have done research before!). Anyways, I find the readings and discussions interesting and I enjoy what I am learning, so it is a good thing. And I even like all the papers I am going to write! (ok, the actual writing of them is not as fun, but the topics interesting). Yeah so I sound like a dork, but it is great because I am really confident that this is the profession for me and I feel like I am in the right place (yes I have decided this after only a week and a half) When I get to the paper phase, things will be a bit more stressful. I think I have pretty good time management by now, so I should be alright. I have to be sure to schedule times to have fun as well. Right now I could be at the BBC with several of my friends here, but I decided I was too tired. We went out last night though so it is ok.
My other "class" is practicum. Three credit hours which translates into sixteen hours a week in the field and lots of assignments and paperwork and such. It is pass/fail. My practicum is at Americana Community Center, three days a week. On my first day last week, I was a little frustrated because everyone was in meetings and I wasn't sure exactly what I should be doing yet. Of course I had real work to do, but I'm not supposed to do that during my practicum time. For a half an hour or so I questioned my decision to have my practicum at a place where I was an intern for a year and am currently working. It can be hard to keep those two things separate. Should I get a new eperience? (well I will next year for sure) If it was my first day at an agency that didn't know me, of course they would take the time to orient me. But I am no longer questioning things and can hardly recall that one day where I wasn't sure what to do because now I have so much! And now that I know what I am doing, I am very excited about it and it is definitely a new experience. Although I will still be with the youth programs, my role will be very different. Mainly I will be working on case management (along with developing a system of one there) and facilitating a group. I was asked to look for a need, and I know where there is one. So I will be starting a group for middle school girls. This is actually the group of kids that intimidated me the most when I first started working there. I am sure it will be challenging (especially with some of these girls) but it should be a great experience (and maybe help me to relate better to my own middle school sister!) We will combine "fun" time and structured activities to address different issues that middle schoolers deal with. I am just in the brainstorming phase right now, it will start sometime next month. Another one of my goals for practicum is to get to the next level of cultural competency.
Another reason I was frustrated with my practicum at the beginning of last week is we still didn't know what the heck was going on with our youth programs! But we have that all figured out now (after a 3 hour meeting yesterday) Things will be quite different than last year, but I think it is a good change. I was a little hesitant at first, but now I see how it will work well and be really beneficial to the kids. Last year, there were basically two separate after-school programs. One was ESL run by the public schools and was all Hispanic kids. The other was ours, which was less structured and run by Americana staff. This program mostly consisted of African kids. This year we do not have enough money to pay for enough staff to run that program. Instead we are combining them. The schools have committed to expanding the ESL program which will include all our kids that qualify (which is most of them!) The classes will be split up by levels and it will no longer just be for spanish-speaking kids. And they will incoporate more special activities into the program so they are not just sitting in the classroom. For our faithful kids who do not qualify for ESL, we will run a very small version of last year's program with one or two staff (that still need to be hired), volunteers, and interns. I am not a "staff" for this, but a social work intern who helps out with things related to my position (so I won't be helping kids with homework, making snack, opening the gym, etc. like last year as a regular staff, except as a backup). Anyways this all starts after Labor Day!
So one of my assignments today for practicum was to get the word out about our new program to all the kids. So I made A LOT of home visits. Luckily this is not too hard since 95% of them live in two apartment complexes, both located near the Center. I had a list of around 25 families I needed to visit, and I got them all, plus some more I ran into. I didn't need my list of addresses because all I have to do is drive into one of these complexes, spot a kid I know outside, and they show me where everyone lives. I think I pretty much covered everyone. This took a good 3 hours or so. And it made me realize another reason why I am doing this - I really love these kids! I hadn't seen them since the end of the summer program, so I missed them. I was worried they would not react well to the changes in the program, but most of them were just excited to come back! And they really do need the ESL help. I heard a lot fewer complaints than expected. I have really gotten more comfortable with this whole home visit concept. Everything went great tonight. Oh yeah, I was also assigned my first official "client" last week. The one and only Juma (who knocked me unconcious with a basketball). He wants to transfer middle schools and I am going to help him with this process. I went to talk to his school counsler today, and had a "meeting" with Juma.
In addition to all this school stuff, I am also working 18-20 hours a week at Americana. I am still the facility manager/newsletter writer/shopper, and in addition to this, I am now one of the front desk girls (I guess administrative assistant would be a better term). I work four days a week, and three of these I am at the front desk. Let me just say that time flies by because when you are answering the phone, talking to everyone who comes in and doing the million other things that come up, while trying to do the other part of your job, things go fast! I have four hours a week of work where I am not at the desk, but that is when I have to do all their shopping and errands, which takes up most of that time! (hooray for sam's club....ugh! I hate that place!) Thankfully I should be getting a work credit card with my name on it soon so I no longer have to pretend I am Bosnian.
Well there you have it. That is my life for the next year, well school year at least. My days are filled with the three components of work, class and practicum (a combination of two each day). Wednesdays will seem the longest days. I have work 8-1 and then practicum 2-8. So yeah 12 hours in the same building! Today I actually stayed until 9 due to the home visits. I am beat, I need to get some sleep. I might be getting sick and I really need to avoid that.
I know this is a very detailed blog, maybe one person will actually read the whole thing. But in case you were wondering "what exactly is Maria up to these days?", there you have it! I really do use this thing as a personal journal (well minus the really personal stuff obviously!) I might use some of this for my reaction paper that is due for practicum this week....
And maybe sometimes I will do fun things that don't involve school and work and I'll be sure to tell you about those.
P.S. I may have officially gone crazy. I came home after my 13 hour day and saw dishes in the sink and I almost wanted to do them. I did not do them purely out of obligation (really I didn't even have to) I guess cleaning can be theraputic for me too! (plus it doesn't take as long with only 3 people)