I am a first-generation Pakistani Muslim American. I was motivated to pursue my MSW when I realized how many people were struggling with mental health issues within my community and were unable to get the help they needed due to lack of resources and the cultural stigma that discourages mental health services. I just graduated from USC in the COVID class of 2020 and graduating during these times has been a struggle. This has definitely exposed a need for mental health services as more and more people are realizing that they are unable to escape from their past traumas. If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it is that as social workers we need to be able to adapt and be flexible under any given circumstance. I have also learned that self-care is important for us as caregivers, and we need to heal before we heal others.
Graduating during COVID-19 has been a hardship of its own; trying to stay motivated and focused in the middle of a global pandemic was very difficult. The lack of having a graduation, not being able to say goodbye to friends and professors has left many of us without closure. The job search has also been very discouraging. At the beginning of 2020 I had planned to have a job as soon as graduation happened. When COVID-19 closures began, my professors warned us that we probably would not be getting hired for another 12-18 months. Overall, 2020 has been a very unique year with a lot of adjustments and trying to find new coping mechanisms.
Outside of being a social worker, I enjoy community organizing, traveling, and being around my friends. I have been involved with local non-profits and help with organizing events. Along with that, I travel a few times a year and love exploring new cities, states, and countries. I am also a huge fan of photography. Quarantine has led me to combine my passions of mental health, travel, and photography. I am working on a side project called Heal With MI and hope to have it set up by the time its safe to travel.
My advice to any present/future MSW student is to find a great support system and weed out the toxic relationships in your life. You will need lots of love and support through the program and through your career. I also highly recommend going to therapy and healing from your own trauma and learning to love yourself. Therapy is free at most universities, I advise to take advantage of it.
Submitted by Alex Michel, NASW-CA Membership Intern