I spent most of last year in Santiago, Chile learning to navigate the maze-like peripheral neighborhoods of the city, folding myself into grossly overcrowded buses, and coming to appreciate the importance of eating bread smeared with fresh avocado at 6:00 p.m. tea time everyday (better known as once among Chileans).
I arrived to Chile with tape recorder in hand, ready to interview low-income Chilean women about their perceptions of the growing number of Peruvian women moving to Santiago in search of employment. In the end, I carried out these interviews with the collaboration of several social workers, psychologists, and community leaders who worked with the women I interviewed.
While this experience taught me a great deal about contemporary social justice issues in Chile and the best way to track down demographic statistics in Santiago, it also offered me opportunities for critical self-reflection and personal growth. I learned how much I enjoy working directly with families and children, and I often heard about the sacrifices the women made for the sake of their children’s education. I also gained insight into the importance of psychological support for families and children living in precarious economic circumstances. I observed multiple counseling group sessions, and spoke deeply and frequently with women coping with domestic violence at home.
Upon my return home to Boston, I began to research graduate schools with the hope of applying my policy and language skills in a community setting. I found school psychology to sit neatly at the intersection of psychology and education, fulfilling my interest in each of these fields. I was particularly ecstatic to learn that a school in Boston, not far from my new residence, had launched a Latino mental health certificate program. Speaking with current MSPP students only confirmed my choice to apply to the school psychology program.
I’m excited to see how opportunities for professional and personal growth will develop this year as I come to know schools and school psychologists in Boston. I also look forward to sharing my observations and musings on this process with the MSPP community through these blog entries. Maybe we can even get together to talk over once!