What a Break Taught me.

What a Break Taught me.

By my sophomore year of undergrad, I knew I wanted to finish early. At the start of sophomore year, it was more so due to financial concerns with my university. By the end of my junior year I was tired and burnt out. I didn’t realize that I would be so burnt out by the end of my junior year. During my 3.5 years, for the most part of my undergrad career I took at least 18 credit hours. I started out as a music major so that was the norm. When I switched majors to Psychology my sophomore year, I kept that norm. There were about 2 or 3 semesters where I only took 16 credit hours. When I told my boyfriend that I was going down to 16, he still thought I was doing a lot. While I had 6-8 classes, that wasn’t what burnt me out. If I  was just going to class then home, I think I would’ve been fine and not burnt out. Yet, I was in about 2-3 clubs my Freshman and sophomore year. I was also in my professional fraternity since the end of my freshman year. 

Balancing all of that, was exhausting. I have heard from so many friends and professors who said that junior year is typically the hardest year. Going into junior year, I was still on track to graduate early but was still balancing many clubs. I thought if I let one go, my stress and workload would go away. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Before my first semester of junior year ended, I had countless breakdowns. A turning point was when I dropped all the clubs other than my fraternity. When I say that lighted the load, I’m not even kidding. But the effects of doing all that, still left me burnt out. 

During my last semester of school, I had 5 classes and the bare minimum was needed from me for my fraternity. That was entirely different to what I was used to. So I had time to go work out and work on a research project. At this time, I was applying for Ph.D. programs (spoiler alert, I didn’t get into any. I’ll get more into that in a later blog post). The most stressful thing on my plate was applying to Ph.D. programs and finding out my plan for the inbetween. The start of this semester was a breeze. But when applications started opening up, I was stressing out all over again. When graduation rolled around, I was tired but happy with finishing undergrad. This was a huge accomplishment for a first generation college student.

When I was still in my last semester, I received an email from the Psych department about an internship opportunity. This internship was for a residential facility in the area. I thought I would send in my information, then go in and ask for a job rather than an internship. I didn’t want to take away the internship opportunity from a current student. Right before going to the facility, I printed out my resume and brought it in my purse. They had a group q&a for 3 internship applicants. I met with the lead therapist and program director. While we waited for the director, I was talking with the therapist about my experience at my last job. I worked in another residential facility with a different population. For confidentiality of my work, I will not specify the populations or age group. At the end of the q&a, they asked if we had any questions. I pulled every ounce of courage and explained; I am about to graduate and wanted a job. I gave them my resume and thanked them for everything.

A couple of weeks later, I sent them an email asking about any updates regarding my job request. I was told I wouldn’t need an interview and that I could come in and talk specifics. Mind you, I am normally very anxious when it comes to meeting new people and speaking up. They originally offered me a Residential Case Manager job/residential specialist. Meaning I would balance a case load and running groups every other weekend. If there was not enough case management, then I would be on the unit with the clients. They allowed me to take the rest of December off to celebrate graduation. This allowed me to spend time with my parents before moving in with my boyfriend who lives in the area of my undergrad and now work. 

The first month was me just training to be a case manager. By the end of my second month there, I met productivity which allowed me to shift to full time Residential Case Manager. Starting off, I loved working full time. I loved working with my clients and even though running weekend groups can get rough, it still is nice. This was different than going to 6-8 classes, a couple of clubs, and balancing relationships. Things were going smooth for a few months, even though I got rejected from Ph.D. programs. 

Then we ran into the issue of the pandemic and I kept hitting walls with my clients. I didn’t know how to best help them. So I would be going in circles with my supervisor aka the lead therapist. I would ask how to best help a certain problem and how to work with certain clients. My supervisor has taught me a lot of information in the 6 months that I have been at my work. I learned about using a token system for my younger client and ways to communicate with older clients. I took a free course about motivational interviewing that my supervisor found for me. That course was very insightful and definitely shifted how I interact with some clients. Some of the information that I’ve learned while working, I never learned in my undergrad experience.

But there are still times when I get stuck and by the time I talk to my supervisor, it feels like it’s too late. The client has moved onto what their current issue is that week. So I’m in this weird limbo of what to do. My boyfriend has been lending ear to all of my concerns and supported me when I was rejected. My boyfriend asked about what I thought regarding a master’s program. I had a friend who suggested applying to a Ph.D. and master’s program at the same time but I couldn’t afford that at the time. I spent a few days thinking and researching. Yet, many applications were closed because most students apply by February. I originally shifted to full online programs. Thankfully, I went back to my supervisor for her advice. She knew the director of a MSW program that was a hybrid program. She emailed her, and I was allowed to apply by the end of May. 

This is the program that I am currently enrolled in. And my job offers tuition reimbursement which is a blessing. This will keep me from going even further in student debt. I am grateful for the break from school that I have been given so far. This break has taught me so much about myself and about my clients. At the same time, it left me yearning for more school. I want to learn different ways of helping my current clients and my future clients. By keeping my current job this allows me to keep learning my clients and learning things outside of class. But by going to school, this will give me more knowledge to pull from. This will allow me to be more creative with working with clients. This break has refreshed my love of learning and I never thought that would happen.

Why a MSW program?

Why a MSW program?

As I started this blog post, I had to take a moment and really think of what was motivating me to go for a masters. When I was in undergrad, one of the best pieces of advice was “Graduate school is hard. But that spark that you feel in you now, remember that when things get tough. That will push you through Grad school.”

That spark I felt was right around when I was talking about working with people. I was talking to a girl who came to my sophomore seminar course to talk about getting a masters in counseling. She said that to me when we sat in a Panera while I asked a million questions about grad school. She has somewhat of a similar situation I find myself in now. She had taken a break from school and worked as a case worker in the area. After a year, she went back for counseling. Whereas I am here after a few months going into a social work program.

Starting as a case manager right after undergrad, there have been many times where I don’t know how to reach my clients or talk to my clients. I have had to think on my feet or wait until I could talk to my supervisor. It’s frustrating when I prefer to go on my own and figure out solutions. But then I run into the issue of not really reaching my clients. Also, I would like to reach a point where I could become a therapist. I think it would be great to start a private practice one day. I have played around with that idea for a few years. Yet, I need to get more into the field and get more experience. So by going back for my masters, will allow me to have 3 different internships. This will grant me more experiences with working with people and more problem solving skills. Throughout this program, I think it will help me with my current caseload and future case loads.

By going through a part time program, it will allow me to continue working full time. If I had dropped my work hours to part time, then I would be going to full time school. But financially I am comfortable at working full time. I can pay my car, my groceries, bills, and have a little spending money. I have had this comfortable financial level for the past 6 months. The last thing I want to do is restrict my quality of life for a degree. I am a strong believer in self care and a form of self care is financial self care. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I had a budget of $100 per month. I will admit my parents paid for my cost of living on campus. I had no car and no bills. I had to finance my groceries and if I went out. So to have the opportunity to work full time and pay for my current lifestyle, I do not want to revert back to where I was. I want to continue being self-reliant in the financial world. I want to hold my own and continue moving forward.

At this point in time, I do not know if I will stop my formal education at a master’s program. Throughout undergrad, I knew I wanted to continue on to graduate school. But I’m still playing around with the idea of eventually going back for a Ph.D. I will be flexible with my goals. I do not know where the master’s will take me. I don’t know if I’ll be burnt out from formal education and need a break for a few years. We will see where these next 3 years take me. The only thing I know at the moment, the masters feels like a step in the right direction. I recognize that it’s going to be hard but as long as I remember my spark, I think I can do it. 

Sincerely,

Semita ❤