How did you become interested in pursuing social work?
My immigration and acculturation experience not only influenced my decision to become a social worker, but also prepared me for this long journey. In December 2005, when I was 17, I left my homeland, China, to immigrate to San Francisco with my father. Although we had some relatives in San Francisco, our support network was very limited and we could only afford to live in a small room with a shared kitchen and bathroom in a “Standing Room Only” apartment in Chinatown. America was nothing like my family and I had envisioned: the twin social demands of English proficiency and acculturation left me feeling anxious. With extremely limited English-speaking ability, I had to work strenuously in order to survive. I had encountered countless challenges at work, be it thinly-veiled racism or poorly disguised oppression. However, I did not give up. In fact, I used my oppression to fuel my drive to fight harder to succeed. These discriminatory experiences strengthened the idea of becoming an educator to address the causes and effects of discrimination and an advocate for people who receive prejudicial treatment. Later, I learned these two roles could be combined into one profession—social work.
What area of social work are you most interested in? Why?
I am most interested in hospice and mental health settings. I always have a deep passion for hospice care, and that’s why I started volunteering for the Chinese American Coalition for Compassionate Care and Mission Hospice & Home Care. From my observation, we have few social workers who speak Cantonese and/or Mandarin working in the hospice setting. However, we have a large Chinese-speaking community in the Bay Area. I have seen bereavement support groups in English and Spanish, but have had a difficult time finding one in Cantonese or Mandarin. I would very much like to fill the service gap. Mental health has always been my interest as it is such an important issue in our lives, and, of course, our society. Yet, the stigma of mental illness, in many cultures, is so heavy that people not only have a misunderstanding of causes and effects of it, but are also afraid to talk about the issue and impacts of mental illness on our loved ones and our future children! I want to be a voice and an advocate for myself, people around me, people who have struggled with or are still trying to live with mental illness. My areas of interest always lead me to the most important part of social work, in my opinion—policy advocacy. I look forward to learning more and practicing in this area with the guidance of my colleagues.
What made you decide to become an NASW member?
I decided to become a NASW member because it is a dedicated and passionate organization. I learned about NASW when I was an undergrad student in social work, and my first reaction was, “Wow, I have to be part of this organization!” I was pretty tied to a budget back then, but I did not even blink when I paid the student membership fee. I always appreciated this organization consistently offering guidance, support and resources to its members, standing with those who are marginalized and disadvantaged, and most importantly, creating a community and family for social workers from all around this nation!
What are your interests outside of social work?
I have a lot of interests! I often say this: I have many hobbies, but I am not good at them! I enjoy learning. Recently I enrolled in a course called Healing Through Art: Train the Trainer, and I am really loving it so far! I also enjoy indoor and outdoor sports, art, music, dancing, reading, and volunteering. Three activities I do to stay physically and emotionally healthy are Vipassana meditation, yoga, and weight lifting.
What advice would you give to future social work students?
- Love and take care of yourself first because this world would lose so much when you are not well.
- Connect with your peers, fellows, professors, community, and organizations because networking plays an important role in the social work profession.
- Be open-minded, be uncomfortable, and be willing to both challenge and be challenged.