Elena Nichols: Comparative Social Work Masters Student
Elena Nichols recounts how she earned her Masters of Social Work in the joint degree program Comparative Social Work between UArctic members the University of Lapland and Northern (Arctic) Federal University.
Originally I am from Arkhangelsk, a town in the north of Russia. If you will look on a map you will see that it is not so far from the Scandinavian countries or the White Sea. The White Sea helps Arkhangelsk with fish, a natural resource, as well as with cold Arctic winds! My first chance to travel and explore a new culture turned up when I started my Masters in Social Work. I had an opportunity to study in both Russia and Finland and earn a double degree.
I do not want to sound as one of the people from the TV screen trying to sell you a bunch of stuff in which you are not even interested, but I really want to speak up about the good sides of studying abroad. Since the time when I realized that only I am responsible for my choices and they can change my future, I was trying to get as much as I could, especially when it comes to education. It’s like in the movie «Always say YES»: you need to take all reasonable chances which life gives to you.
So, I started my MSW in the Comparative Social Work program. From the beginning, the staff at the University of Lapland gave a lot of information about the study plan and provided me with guidelines for all paperwork. My Russian studies were not an issue. I was able to combine my Russian credits with the Finish program plan and concentrate on both of my studies.
The Comparative Social Work program focuses on the cultural context of social work issues. During the study period you will interact with the new culture by collaborating with teachers and students on lectures and seminars, gaining experience in internships in Finnish social welfare organizations and even by studying Finnish language. The MSW program allows you to get acquainted with the philosophical paradigms of social work, managing care services in social work, various research methods and social work with different groups of population. The comparison with social work system in your country will make possible for you to see the world from a lot of perspectives.
Another part of the MSW program, International Summer School «Social Work from the Global Perspective» gives you an opportunity to discover social work in different parts of the world. Students and teachers share their experience and knowledge about social work in their countries. You will see a variety of approaches on theories in social work and host of methods of how to do social work.
Today I am a Training Specialist in one of the day care programs at HowardCenter Developmental Services in Burlington, Vermont, USA. My job is to instruct and support adults with developmental disabilities in basic living, social and vocational skills, to integrate clients into their communities and promote individualized growth. The experience and knowledge which I gained by participating in this Master Degree program helped me adapt to a new working environment and understand the philosophical approach of the company.