Welcome to the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work Student Ambassador Blog! This blog was created by current student Ambassadors for people like you: Prospective students interested in getting a glimpse of our Master of Social Work program from the student angle. Feel free to contact Student Ambassadors if you want to learn more!
Being an Advanced Standing student, one becomes accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle. Just three months ago, I received my Bachelors in Social Work. Five days later, I began my Masters at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Three weeks after that, I began my job at Caring Services, Inc. In a month’s time, I went from my comfortable identity as an undergraduate student with a relaxed job at a halfway house to a graduate student in a competitive program with a high stress job coordinating a brand new program.
Change has not historically been easy for me, even when it is change that I desired and worked hard for. Graduate school proved to be challenging and pushed me to become a much better critical writer in a short period of time. Simultaneously, I was “faking it until I made it” in my new position at work. Fear plagued me often over the summer. The times the fear was strongest during the moments I sat in front of a blank document or spreadsheet. I have never created a questionnaire before. Nor have I tracked data, or written a press release. Never have I had to be so careful to format everything perfectly.
I did what I have learned to do as a person, a student, and an employee. I just kept moving. I asked for help and I wrote, despite my fears. The work got done. The papers were written. I have become comfortable in my new roles. I am grateful to begin new chapters in my life and to have the opportunity to grow as a social worker, despite how frightening it can be.
I can’t believe the school year has already started! It feels like I just entered the program yesterday (cliché , but so true). I want to talk about embracing new journeys and not forgetting to care for oneself along the way! I am a second year student in the dual degree MSW/MPH program and had my first Public Health courses last week. The experience was so amazing and challenging!
I entered with an open mindset because that is the best way to begin a new journey! Trust me, it is definitely a good thing to plan, but also remain open to other opportunities because you never know how things may turn out! Embracing new journeys also means becoming more self-aware of boundaries, triggers, and recognizing when you have taken on too many responsibilities. It is okay to say no. Everyone has their limits and NEVER feel bad for honoring yourself and your thresholds. If you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot effectively advocate for others.
Some recommendations and words of wisdom that helped me through my first year in the program:
- Set aside at least 15-20 minutes per day after classes/field in which you can sit alone and process the day. Alone time is essential for recharging!
- Try to find a hobby unrelated to school and schedule that time weekly (weekends usually work really well).
- Make friends! The friends I’ve made in my cohort are amazing. I am so thankful for their continuous support! We come from different backgrounds but share the experience of being in the program. Don’t underestimate the power of these bonds!
- Be kind to yourself and others! Adjusting to the program is a process and everyone’s experience is going to be different. I know it is difficult, but try not to compare your experience and journey to the next person’s.
- In conjunction with the last point, embrace your individuality!
Wishing everyone the best of luck and a great year!
Hi out there, I’m Nikki and I wanted to write a little bit about why I wanted to be a Student Ambassador to begin with. Reason number one? I LOVE THIS PROGRAM! I love my cohort, my professors, my advisors, my field placement and the people in it. I love the opportunity to make this program my own. I’ve wanted to be an ambassador before I knew there were ambassadors. When the opportunity arose to take a lead in how prospective students are introduced to the school, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve already had the chance to talk to a prospective student over the phone, and being able to allay some of his fears while giving him some insite into the program itself felt great. I am really proud of the UNC School of Social Work and the students that it turns out. Being a student ambassador is my opportunity to give back to the community that I so cherish. It’s a way of cheering on the next generation of social workers and Tar Heels.
“When I wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning
I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time. By the time I grab my books
And I give myself a look, I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by.
It’s alright ’cause I’m saved by the bell!
If the teacher pops a test, I know I’m in a mess,
And my dog ate all my homework last nite. Riding low in my chair,
She won’t know that I’m there. If I can hand it in tomorrow, it’ll be all right.
It’s all right ’cause I’m saved by the bell
It’s all right ’cause I’m saved by the bell.” – Scott Gale
YOU DID IT! You made it through the first day of classes! Whether you are just beginning or in the final stretch of your journey in UNC’s MSW program, you are one step closer to your goal today! Many of you may remember the popular TV sitcom, Saved by the Bell. As I was scurrying around this morning and preparing for the first day of my internship, I began to unconsciously hum the tune of this show. As silly as the lyrics may be, humming through my first day nervous jitters was a form of self-care.
Thankfully, we all made it through the trials and tribulations of high school that were portrayed in the Saved by the Bell series. However, we will still encounter similar issues during our graduate school years – arrive on time to class, complete assigned readings, and write lengthy papers. One thing definitely remains the same…we need the support of our peers! Always remember, that the UNC Student Ambassadors are here to provide a pat on the back, words of encouragement, attentive ears, and reassurance that it will indeed “be all right.”
We Recovery & We Advocate
My name is Donald McDonald and I am a person in long-term recovery from addiction, which means I haven’t used alcohol or other drugs to make it through the day in nearly twelve years. As a result, my wife can count on me and my children are proud of me. I got an awesome job as a programs director two weeks before I graduate from the best social work school in the world. I am surrounded by friends and allies, and I have committed my life to service. I got well then I got better than well – I transformed from sociopath to social worker. I’m telling you this because I am not ashamed and I intend to advocate for an end to discrimination against my people.
Why I am here:
Thus far, the key players are framing problems with the Controlled Substance Reporting System (CSRS) around stopping substance “abuse” and diversion and stopping “doctor shopping.” We should find that notion hard to reconcile. We should find it offensive. As we know, over 5,000 North Carolinians have died from prescription opioid overdose since the CSRS was implemented – enough casualties to fill the entire Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh… and the front lawn. These are our family and friends.
Lichtin Plaza (The Lawn): 273
Kennedy Theater: 150
Fletcher Opera Theater: 600
Maymandi Concert Hall: 1700
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium: 2227
5,000 Dead North Carolinians
Around half of DEA licensed physicians are registered with the CSRS. Current proposals ask that the number of registered users be “significantly” increased. Compromise…
Would we be in a position of compromising if folks were recommending a partial response to the Zika virus? No. We are in this position because we are recovered drug addicts trying to advocate for dying drug addicts. It’s not stigma. It’s discrimination.
This time last year, I was counting down the days until my undergraduate BSW graduation, and celebrating the fact that I was accepted into UNC’s MSW program and, officially “onto something bigger and better”. Though I was excited, I often questioned whether or not I was making the right decision. Should I have tried to find work and taken a gap year? Had I learned enough to keep me from sinking at UNC? Would Advanced Standing be too fast to truly learn what I need? Will I be able to afford graduate school? Will I be able to get a job after graduation? Ultimately, will this ALL be worth it?
When I began classes at UNC, I realized what an incredibly diverse group of students I was being given the opportunity to work with. People who had families and children and worked full-time jobs, people who had travelled all over the world, people who had started non-profits, and people just like me- students who were coming from academia and were new to the practice side of social work. I soon realized just how incredible my experience at UNC was going to be. Due to the diverse group of students, I was able to gain so much more from my classes and overall learning experience. Discussions were lengthy and dense, and professors were supportive of our conversations.
As the semesters moved along, I felt continuously supported by the School in all of my work and aspirations. I had made contacts and connections, and by the Spring I was networking with recent graduates, not-so-recent graduates, and relevant community members. Though I am a commuter student who isn’t particularly involved on campus, I felt like a “real” member of this School. I was soon feeling more confident in my clinical work at my field placement, as well as confident in my clinical knowledge. Now, with graduation only a few short weeks away, I am able to see a tremendous amount of growth in myself as a professional, a student, and an individual citizen over the past year.
I wrote this blog because I wanted to give newly admitted students, as well as prospective students, a glimpse into the mind of an almost-MSW. This is the time of our MSW education where we are most stressed, and feeling the pressure of not only graduation, but also the next phase in life- starting our careers. However, I need to let you know that IT IS WORTH IT. It is all worth it, every little bit. When I got an email offering me my dream job with a pretty dreamy salary, I first realized that it was worth it. When I was able to go see my parents and tell them about my new job, and let them know that all of their hard work had paid off, it was definitely worth it. When I was able to go home that night and tell my soon-to-be-husband that in only a few months, our hard work spanning over 6 years of education will have finally ended in a career for myself- IT WAS WORTH IT. Last, when I finally got up the nerve to log into my student loan online account and total up the monthly payments- and realized that I can afford them- I took a deep breath and said to myself, “I can do this- it was worth it”.
No matter what stage of your life you are in, and no matter what your worries are…take a deep breath and remind yourself that it will all be worth it. Reach out to people, know when to ask for help, and take care of yourself first. If you are able to do these things, you will reach your goals and find that all of your hard work and determination to succeed will eventually pay off.