Studying abroad in Barbados in 2015 has helped shape my professional journey and my world today. As an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, I had no clue what I wanted to do after undergraduate degree. The only thing that I did know was that working closely with people and helping others would be something that would interest me. I decided to pursue a degree as a Human Services major and Psychology minor because that was my best bet. While taking my classes I learned so much about all of the possibilities and paths that Human and Social Services could take you. It almost felt overwhelming. Do I want to work in HR? Or as a school counselor? What about a career in family law? I had made it to my senior year and still didn’t know which way I wanted to go.
A professor of mine shared with me and other students a study abroad opportunity geared directly towards Human Services majors. Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine but, like most people, I was apprehensive about the idea because of financial reasons. Thank God for the Gilman Program because otherwise, my chance to study abroad would not have been possible. The program was in Barbados and it had a strong service-learning component, immersing students into the culture and community through internships and volunteer opportunities. Students had the chance to work in an elementary school, psychiatric hospital, or with the HIV/AIDS Commission of Barbados. There were so many different paths to take; a perfect chance to explore the different avenues that my major could provide.
My placement was working with the HIV/AIDS Commission of Barbados. Working with them I explored the world of social work and health and the role that they played in the small island country as apposed to the U.S. I shadowed an HIV/AIDS Social Worker and watched her provide sexual health counseling to patients and help execute community outreach events that promoted sexual health and wellness. I got to meet the people of Barbados who kindly shared their stories with me; stories about the families and the history of the island as they know it. I learned so much about sex culture and its impact on the citizens of Barbados. Furthermore, I learned about the Social Work profession while getting hands-on experience.
Looking back I see how my time abroad had changed my professional goals and had set me on the career path that I’m on today. It had helped me find my passion for social work. Since then I’ve worked as a social work assistant, a school mentor, and most recently as a case planner for a foster care agency here in NYC. In every job I continued to grow my skills and foundations that I first built in Barbados, furthering my exploration of social work. It also cultivated a love for experiencing and exploring new places and cultures. Currently, I am a flight attendant and I am pursuing a graduate degree in Social Work with a health concentration. Now I get to continue to pursue my professional passions as well as fulfill my love of travel and exploration that Gilman has helped me develop.