From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Looking Back

by Joseph Helder

Today is the last day of my internship at Evanston School District 65. My semester of living and working in the city has been a whirlwind of emotions. Saying good bye to all of the great people I have been able to spend time with has been harder then I imagined. The mix of students from many different colleges living in my building has been one of the best parts of my semester. Saying goodbyes to the wonderful staff and the students at my schools was also difficult.
It is remarkable to look back at all of the things I have learned since the start of the semester. I remember when I was having trouble understanding how to use the CTA to get to and from classes and work. Also the difference between my first time presenting a student's IEP report at work and my last time was like night and day. It is amazing to see how repetition of work skills has helped me to develop them. I know that these skills will serve me in grad school and into my future career as a social worker.

To anyone wondering whether or not Chicago Semester is right for them I can offer this: I wanted to spent my semester in a place that would offer me new experiences and make me into a more independent individual. Working at an internship back in Holland Michigan would have made me more independent but to no where near the extent that living in Chicago did. Moving to a new city filled with different people and ideas exposed me to new cultures and experiences that I would not have been able to find back in the city I went to college in. I will be forever thankful for the experiences I have gained through this semester in Chicago, and for the wonderful people I met along the way!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

One Piece of Advice

by Lauren Gobelman

Today marks the last month of my time participating in Chicago Semester. Man has the time flown by! It seems like just yesterday I was stepping out of the car and breathing in the cold winter air of Chicago. If I have learned anything from my 22 years on this planet it is to hold on to every moment you have and to try and enjoy your days one day at a time. It’s so easy to get caught up in looking ahead to certain things, but when we do that, we forget to appreciate the moments that are right in front of us. Speaking of which, today was 73 degrees! I have found it easier to appreciate the city when it’s warm outside and I can spend time exploring and not worrying about getting frostbite!

Since it is the last month of the semester that means it is crunch time. Everything is in full swing and assignments that are due the last week of the semester are starting to pile up! It can be a little overwhelming when looking at everything due all at once. That’s why it’s important to make a to-do list and break things up so they don’t become so overwhelming. I am currently working on my research assignment for my social work seminar class. I decided to do my assignment on the perspectives of PCM, which is Professional Crisis Management. This is an intervention technique used primarily with students with developmental disabilities. I decided to conduct an interview and randomly select 6 staff members from my internship site (Esperanza Community Services) to gain their perspectives on what they think about PCM to help guide my research. It’s been very interesting to hear how perspectives can differ between staff members from different grade levels and different years of experience.

Speaking of my internship, it’s been going very well! It has been one heck of a semester. I have learned so many things I never thought possible being in an intern position. I tend to be a person who likes to insert myself fully into what I do. Some would call me an overachiever... but I like to look at it as I am just a really hard worker. I have heard numerous comments from some of the staff that I work with more closely that I have been one of the most hands-on interns they have ever had. I personally take that as a compliment! I feel that the only way to truly learn anything is to not be afraid to insert yourself and ask to help out. Ask for tasks to do, ask how you can be a part of a certain situation. I would not have had the same experience if I wasn’t assertive and passionate about gaining experience for future jobs, etc.

If I could give one piece of advice to a future Chicago Semester student I would say, do as much as you can! Don’t be afraid to put off an assignment for a few hours to go explore. Take in as much as you can because this is one of those experiences you don’t want to sell yourself short on because you were too stressed out to take a moment and appreciate the city that you are in, even if it means crashing on your friend’s floor for a night. Chicago is one of the best cities in the world in my opinion, and this has been one heck of an experience that I would not change for anything. I have learned so much, I have become so confident in my navigation skills, and I have learned how to truly appreciate each moment that I have been blessed with this semester!   

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Springtime in Chicago

by Joseph Helder

I am a little over the half way point in my internship at Evanston District 65. It is early March and the weather has finally started to cooperate with me. For the past week it has been in the forties or low fifties, and after months of piercing cold this feels so good! This has been the first week I have been able to run outside as opposed to on a treadmill. This has made training for my marathon so much easier.

I have not visited Hope’s campus or my home town of East Lansing since I have moved to Chicago. Living and working in Chicago, away from my immediate community back on Hope’s campus is something I have become accustomed to. I have been surprised at how easy it is to maintain a strict sleep schedule, workout routine, and Bible reading schedule when I am not constantly surrounded by friends and distractions. When it is just me making the “adult” decision, it becomes much easier. I am seeing how the little decisions I can make to take care of myself such as eating healthy, and going to bed regularly affect my work day. 

Speaking of work my social work internship has been going great. I have been leading more groups with students, and being a part of meetings where I actually have things to contribute. Two weeks ago I had to present information at a student’s IEP. This was my first time presenting, and I was so nervous. I have presented a couple times since then, now it is old hat! It is fun to see how far I have come since first starting work at these two schools in the District. Now many of the students know my name and are happy to see me when I walk into their class rooms. I have been thinking about how much I am going to miss these students once I am gone and graduated. They will always hold a special place in my heart. 

*Photos by Matthew Meek

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Making Memories

by Lauren Gobelman

I am embarking on a month of working at Esperanza Community Services in the West Town area of Chicago. I have had some really incredible opportunities at my internship thus far. My internship is a school designed to work and help children with developmental disabilities to achieve their goals. Not only do they have a school program, but they also have an adult day program as well as assisted living housing called Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA). I have been able to shadow three great social workers during my time here and have been able to sit in on an IEP meeting as well as an all staff training called Transition-Palooza. Needless to say, I have tons of learning opportunities here and have several people I can go to whenever I have a question or concern about something. Plus, working with children with disabilities everyday is honestly the best. I have such a profound joy and sense of fulfillment working with these beautiful individuals and I am so blessed to be here this semester.

I grew up in the Chicago-land area, which is one of the main reasons for me wanting to be a part of this wonderful program that is Chicago Semester. Since I have family that lives near the heart of the city I was able to live with a relative to save some money this semester on housing. One of my main concerns was whether or not I would be able to build friendships with the other students. Luckily my good friend Joey lives in Canterbury this semester and has been great with including me and making sure that I make friends. The past two weeks have been spent celebrating my birthday and my new friend Sam’s birthday. We were all able to get together and celebrate over some games and socializing. I am very blessed to have met some really great people and luckily for me I am a very outgoing person so it’s easy for me to be intentional about meeting new people. I am making tons of memories and long-lasting friendships with my new friends from Dordt and Calvin College.

This past Sunday, February 15th, the social work and nursing students enjoyed the afternoon visiting the Jane Addams Hull House Museum on UIC’s campus. We had an awesome tour by one of the student’s who works for the museum. She took us through every room of the house and was filled with more knowledge than I could ever dream of obtaining. I really enjoyed her tour because she knew what she was talking about, she encouraged dialogue during her tours, and she taught me a lot. I learned that Jane Addams partnered with Ellen Gates Starr to co-found the Hull House settlement in 1889. I also learned that Wells-Barnett and Addams worked together to block the establishment of segregated public schools as well as co-signed “The Call” which proposed the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The other students enjoyed the time that we had there and had tons of great questions to ask our tour guide. I would say that the tour was a success! We all came out of the experience knowing more than when we went in there. I would even go back another time on my own to spend more time walking through and reading all of the displays. To end, here is a group picture of the social work interns at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Getting Acclimated to Chicago

by Joseph Helder

This is the beginning of my fourth week of working for Evanston District 65 schools. Today is a special day because school was canceled. I love snow days!! Throughout the course of yesterday we got about 18 inches of snow. Many other Chicago semester interns are also enjoying a day off. This is a great way to start the week. I have been enjoying my internship but who would not take an extra day off at the the end of the weekend. 

After last week it feels like I am finally acclimated to a school social work schedule. Because I am living in the Gold Coast neighborhood and my internship is with Evanston schools,  I have been getting up at 6:00am to get ready and catch the train. Depending on which school I am at that day I either take the red line to purple line then use a bus or just red line to purple line and walk to school. I switch schools depending on the day of the week, and some days I also switch schools half way through the day. It just goes to show that social workers need to be flexible. It is easier to be flexible for certain situations, snow days for example. At work I have mainly been sitting in on meeting but there are more and more opportunities for me to interview parents and lead small groups with the students. When we do conduct groups I teach the preschoolers about emotional regulation. I also get to work with a couple different groups of middle schoolers and high schoolers with developmental disabilities. These groups are always a highlight of my day. 

Overall the first few weeks here in Chicago have been great. I feel like I have mastered public transportation and have devised a budget I can stick to with some work. These past few weekends I have enjoyed getting to know the other students from different colleges. It sounds like our campus experiences have been very similar, and we get along very well. Here is a picture of some of us getting ice cream after we saw a show at the Looking Glass Theater last week.