We asked BSW student bloggers Allison Gartman ‘18 (Trinity) and Bailey Burkart ‘18 (Hope) to answer these questions as they completed their internships and final classes through Chicago Semester. We are so proud of their hard work and wish them the best in their next endeavors!
Q: As you near the end of your time in Chicago, what experiences or memories stand out to you?
Allison: As I reflect on my time here in Chicago, there have been countless experiences that have shaped my values along with memories that will be treasured forever. My internship at North Side Housing and Supportive Services, plays and art events around the city that have been seen and discussed with friends in the CS program (we just saw Miss Saigon-it was incredible), attending churches, and riding public transit have all brought about unique conversations and interactions with people that have brought me insight and new knowledge. One of my favorite memories is from this past Friday. My internship site graciously had their Christmas party on the last day that I was there so that I could attend. We had a secret snowperson exchange, bowled (I beat 3 of the guys in the office…but no biggie 😉 ), and laughed continuously. During this time, I realized how much the people at NSHSS have exemplified how I want to be as a social worker. The way that they truly listen, are empathetic, and work to aid individuals experiencing homelessness are character traits that I hope to take on as a future social worker. The experiences I had at NSHSS will be ones that I lean back on for future knowledge in my social work career.
Bailey: As the semester comes to an end, the things I remember the most are the little moments of just sucking in the city life. Walks by Lake Michigan with the skyline in the background surrounded by runners and bikers along with beach goers soaking in the sun. Walking down Michigan Ave, passing street performers on the busy streets even though the sun is long gone. Picnics by the river. Getting smoothies and coffee from the little cafe hut 2 blocks away and watching all the bougie people pass you on the way to their expensive city restaurants that fill the Gold Coast. Going to the local restaurants with my friends and a game of giant Jenga or grabbing late night Chicago hot dogs at the hole-in-the wall place on our street. Going ice skating at The Ribbon in the middle of the city surrounded by tall buildings and Christmas lights. The city is magical, even when you’re just heading to CVS at 11pm to pick up a pint of ice cream.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would offer to students considering Chicago Semester or incoming students next spring or summer?
Allison: This sounds cliché, but take every opportunity your internship site offers you. I had the option of whether to take on a project involving an outside clinic and conducting surveys to look at the correlation between NSHSS and healthcare. Although I was busy at the time working on other surveys and had a case load of participants, I said yes, this turning into the best part of my internship. The internship sites in the city have vast experiences that you might not get anywhere else, so say yes to whatever they offer you!
Bailey: My advice to future students is that the first week or so can be kind of hard, but don’t let that scare you. No matter what you are missing out on at home, or how different city life can be at times, you totally made the right decision to come to Chicago. Take initiative, make friends in the program, and put yourself out there. You’ll figure out the city commute thing in no time, and your internship will give you skills and experience you never could have gotten at your school. You’ll mature and grow in ways this semester that you could have never anticipated. So keep pushing yourself, and do your best to get out of that tiny apartment as much as possible, or fill it with every single one of your friends, make dinner together, and eat it on the floor.
Q: What’s next for you? How has this experience in Chicago impacted your future plans?
Allison: As for next plans, I graduate in about a week (yikes!), and then am working with children who have autism through the spring semester and summer. In fall, I will be attending graduate school (most likely at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee) for my Masters in Social Work. Originally, I was planning on honing in on the health concentration, but from being in Chicago, I realized the greater need for more knowledge and advocacy on the community health end of social work. With the knowledge from a double concentration in Physical Health and Community and Organizational Leadership, I’m hoping to work at a more macro level of community health. Living in a city has impacted me both as a social worker and as a Christian in the workplace, and I will forever be grateful for this semester.
Bailey: What’s next? Greatttt question. So this fall semester has marked my final semester as a college student. Most people graduating may go straight into the work force, but personally, I’m not trying to rush this whole growing up thing. I’m going to be headed back to Hope College to spend one more semester living with my best friends and making the most memories I can with the people I love. So basically I’ll be spending the spring nannying so I can save up money and spend my final semester of college staying a kid with my friends. Being an adult has its perks, but everything has a time and place, and this girl isn’t ready for the big kid life quite yet. Plans for future include heading to Haiti this summer for an internship, and starting big kid stuff after that. This semester has taught me so much about what I want to pursue professionally. Working for a foster care agency showed me that I don’t want to be a case worker as I had once thought, but that instead I want to work as a therapist for kids. Eventually I will be pursuing my Masters in Social Work and have the desire to work with itty bitty kiddos with trauma and behavioral issues in a school setting. But who knows, that could all change! That’s why experience and internships are so great, they show you what you like and what you don’t, and knowing what you don’t like is almost twice as important to know about yourself. If you have no idea what’s next for you, don’t sweat it, you’re young, you don’t have to figure it all out yet. Go travel the world, volunteer, and chase after that crazy dream of yours because your career will always be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Congratulations, Allison and Bailey, on completing the semester and walking across the graduation stage!