Alexis Sweeney
Alexis Sweeney
South Africa, 2021
My name is Lexi Sweeney, and I am so excited for this 5 month journey in Cape Town, South Africa! I will be a social work intern at School of Hope, a school for vulnerable youth where I will help facilitate group therapy, individual therapeutic sessions, and social/emotional educational sessions.

Learning, Realizing, and Continuing to Learn

It has been about a couple weeks since I landed in the States, and what an adjustment it has been. There have been countless welcome home embraces by many friends and family that are already making this transition back full of love and joy. It is a difficult transition though. One of the hardest parts is answering the question, “How was Africa?!” Because frist, I have to explain that I went to the country of South Africa, and every country in Africa is quite different, even though some of our elementary history lessons in school might have led us to think otherwise. And the second, well how in the world does one recap 6 months of living and interning in a developing nation that they love so much? 

The incredible School of Hope, where I spent the majority of my time the last 6 months (don’t mind the construction!)

Today, I want to reflect on my intern journey a little bit. It was hard not being able to share stories from working at the school (due to confidentiality reasons), but I am excited to be able to share some things I have learned, things I have realized, and things I am still learning.

 

Things I have learned

-How to advocate for myself and for social work

-How to be confident in my skills

-The importance of letting yourself be taught, even when you’re “supposed to” be in a teaching role

-Tangible, therapeutic skills within a therapy session

-That you can make any situation an opportunity to learn

-Teenagers are filled with so much more depth than society lets people think

-We as humans are more alike than we know, no matter our background or where we are from

Things I have realized

-Social work is understood very differently by people around the whole world, yet it seems all of the actual social workers I have spoken with around the world, we all understand each other and social work in each other’s countries’ context wonderfully

-Teenagers so desperately want to reach out for help, it’s honestly an instinct to. It’s the way society views mental health and trauma, gender roles, and fear of judgement from others that prevents them from speaking up

-One thing I am good at is work/ life boundaries. Meaning, I am good at not “bringing it home with me” (shout out the Belmont social work faculty for teaching us this in undergrad), which helps prevent burnout and compassion fatigue

-It is important to meet vulnerability with compassion in all situations in order for others to feel seen and heard

Things I am still learning

-Finding the balance between exhausting all resources trying to find a new and creative solution and having to move on because my “hands are tied” /nothing i can do

-How to be okay with colleagues thinking poorly about social work

-Knowing when to speak up and advocate for what I believe is best to authority figures

-How to transition out of old things and into new ones

-How to take all the skills I have learned in the last 6 months and use them here in the States

Captured the perfect rainbow on my last day of post-work surfing. Even when the clouds of a great experience ending come in, there’s always a rainbow of hope to find.

 

Those bullets were just a short list of tangible things I learned while working at School of Hope. If I listed every single thing I learned, it would probably take an hour to read. I am beyond thankful for my experience at School of Hope, and I know it has helped me grow into a better version of myself, both professionally and personally. The weird thing is, so many of the “lessons” I learned I can’t even put into words. I just know I am different; I work differently, I speak differently, and I think differently. However, most people in my life probably can’t even tell the difference. But I can. I can tell I am a better version of myself. I can tell I am a better social worker, better friend, better community member. And I have my learners to thank for that. 

 

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