One of the best things about social work is that I have so many career options to choose from. Almost every single class that I take brings about more options and I’ve already switched my “number one passion” about fifty times at this point.
Going to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) this past Friday only added to my ever-growing list of potential careers. During the visit, it was explained that the staff includes a psychologist who helps the witnesses deal with the trauma they’ve experienced. Even though we didn’t get to meet Sarah, the in-house psychologist, I’m completely drawn to her career choice and the fact that she’s dedicated her expertise to helping in such an immense way.
My decision to spend the summer in Bosnia was partly driven by the fact that I could add international experience to my repertoire. I originally didn’t know exactly what that would mean, but after visiting the ICTY, I’m excited by the potential options to practice international social work. I am already very drawn to working with individuals who have experienced trauma and unfortunately, the world is not lacking in trauma by any stretch of the imagination.
One story that we heard at the ICTY was about a man who on not one, but TWO occasions was the sole survivor of a mass murder. Upon surviving, he was riddled with so much pain (and I’m assuming survival guilt) that he plummeted into alcoholism. Through working with Sarah, he was able to share his story and slowly began to drink less and live again. Hearing about this man brought tears to my eyes and I knew that yet again, I had added another career of interest.
I know that it’s probably a cliché to say that I got into social work so that I could help people, but it is quite honestly the simple truth of the matter. If just allowing someone to share his or her story can be so cathartic and life changing for them, I cannot help my desire to become a dedicated listener. One of my dear friends told me once that one of the hardest things I’ll ever learn to do is to “sit with someone’s pain” – even if there is nothing else that can be done. Learning to open my heart to someone’s grief so that they don’t have to be the one solely experiencing it is – in my opinion – one of the best skills a person can have. Even though my list of potential career options continues to grow, I intend to practice that skill no matter where I end up landing.