It has been only two months since I arrived in Boston, but my classes are in full swing, with midterms due in the next two weeks.  Starting school in social work has been exciting, fun, stressful, busy, and sometimes confusing.  Since I’m taking all the intro classes, there are a lot of new things to learn.  Here are some things that have surprised me so far.

  • Social work is a much broader field than I thought.  Social workers can work in non-profits and social service agencies, but they can also open private practices as therapists, work in emergency rooms or elsewhere in hospitals, work in pastoral care, or get a PhD and do research.
  • Social workers are really nice.  This makes sense in a profession whose aim is to empower people, but I’ve still been surprised by how helpful everyone has been.
  • The program I am at is extremely liberal.  Social work as a profession is of course very inclusive and sensitive to diversity, but some of my professors have shocked me with what they assign.  In one class, we watched this video that explains why gender is a social construct:      After watching this, I was expecting a debate, but everyone agreed.  I have just spent the last several years trying to wrap my head about why so many cultures have such clearly defined gender stereotypes, and now I’m told to forget that because it’s wrong.  Are there any other MSWs out there who have an opinion on this?
  • Boston has a big Caribbean population.  I knew there were a lot of immigrants in this city, but I did not realize how many were from the Dominican Republic or Haiti until starting my internship.  My husband and I are appreciative of this, because in one neighborhood we can get plantains 4 for $1.


    We’re hoping to get through the winter on plantains and peanut butter.


7 thoughts on “

  1. Social work, the role of empowering others to become the person they are meant to become isn’t a judgmental position to take, so we as social workers don’t have to believe something applies to ourselves, because our focus is on the person living in their environment. We don’t have to become like the people we work with, believe what they believe – we have to give them a free space to become the person they are.

    That’s why in practicing social work we use our own personal experience to challenge our beliefs, as your professors are trying to do, to be disruptive, to challenge our assumptions. The main reason social work education does this is to cause this self-reflection to grow into the basic building block of social work practice – empathy. if we can challenge our own assumptions about the world around us, we are then ready to see the world through someone else’s experience and life, such as the discussion on gender. It’s not about believing in it that matters but knowing that for someone else it does matter, a lot!
    Here’s a YouTube link from Brene Brown regarding empathy, what it is and why it is important to social workers. Take a look at this and tell us what you think about what it is saying!

    • Thanks for your response, David! The video makes sense, and I realize that I have to be able to see the gender issue through someone else’s experience in case I work with a client whose view I do not share. But I wonder if it would not also be helpful to see the opposite view of gender, assuming that it is equally likely that we will encounter clients who follow defined gender roles. That is also sometimes also difficult to understand if you haven’t been raised with those ideas, and we will need to be respectful of that, too.

      • Hi EleanorDorothy,
        Yes, I like how you’ve gone to the other side now and can apply the same process to those in traditional gender roles, even traditional family roles. Rigid family roles occur in a lot of families and communities in our society. For example, being able to understand the pain of working with a victim of intimate partner violence who returns to the home where the violence occurs is how we practice that empathy, by being non-judgemental about the choices each individual has in their lives.

        Part of social work / social justice however is challenging the larger systems that contribute to gender oppression, dominating someone based on their gender and the beliefs that a certain gender is inferior or weak. Social action challenging stereotypes is also what social workers can do – both helping the individual person and helping the larger groups and society to change.

        Good luck in your studies!

  2. Good for you for keeping your blog going even though you’re no longer in Casablanca! If you learn how to make twice-fried plantains and buy or make pikliz, I will visit you again.

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