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Updated : 2016.04.04  18:37:35
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  I am delighted to have an opportunity to introduce the university where I studied and also to talk about the experience I had in the United States of America as a foreigner, which has helped me not only in a personal life but also in my professional life to become a more skilled and culturally competent social worker. I acquired my Master Degree in Social Work (MSW) from the Catholic University of America (CUA), which is the one and only Catholic university in the United States although it is relatively neither popular nor familar among Koreans.


  CUA is located in District of Columbia (DC), the capital city of the United States of America, and is one of eight universities in DC, along with Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, American University, Trinity College, University of District of Columbia, and Galluadet University. The reason I chose CUA was that it had the best Social Work school in DC Metropolitan area. However, to be honest, I was quite disappointed by its campus size when I got to CUA for the first time. Although the size of DC is one quarter (1/4) of the size of Seoul, it had a relatively small size campus compared to most of universities in Seoul.
  However, I fell in love with the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the biggest Catholic church in the US, located right next to the university. When I was under stress and felt homesick while studying as a foreign student I used to go to that church and light up a candle before giving my prayers even though I am not a Catholic. This spiritual ritual helped overcome homesickness and stress, making me calm again.


  Like most of foreign students, I also had a hard time adjusting myself to English-speaking environment and also to the cultural difference. As what they call, a FOB (Fresh off the boat; a person first visiting USA just taken off the boat, not knowing English, not knowing any culture), I was not familiar with American culture. For example, it was difficult for me to keep eye contacts constantly with a professor in the classroom because I had been educated that it was rude to keep eye contacts with elderly or teachers /professors. However, luckly, there was a part-time instructor who understood my (adjustment) difficulties based on the cultural difference. In order to for me to learn how to keep eye contacts as required in USA culture, he asked me to come to the office before the class started and to practice keeping eye contacts with him during the enjoyable conversation with him. The more I spent time with him the more I was aware that I could keep eye contacts with him and also with other students/ people. That instructor made me comfortable enough to call him by his first name at the end of the first semester, which was his friendly gesture, but still another shocking cultural difference for me as well.
  After I graduated I was able to get a job at a social service agency where I had working experience as an intern to help unaccompanied minors from diverse countries. After I passed the national board exam for social work licence, I started to work as a Mental Health Specialist in an outpatient clinic of DC government. I had an opportunity to work with multi-cultural population in the clinic and always tried to remember how difficult it was for me to have adjusted to American culture. I put myself in my clients' shoes and eventually became culturally competent through their help and my effort.


  Experience at CUA helped me obtain a job, open mind, understanding of multi-culturalism and so on. While I am teaching at Gachon I am trying to be like my professors at CUA, who were supportive and empathic with students and also to be the supervisors at my work who tried to pull out the best potential in their subordinates. I am teaching my students to be non-judgmental as I have been taught/ experienced throughout in my life. I honestly believe that my students would become culturally competent social workers and make the world a better place someday.

 

  
   

     Yoojung Kim, DSW Assistant Professor Department of Social welfare School of Social Science

 

 

 

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