By Emily Kirschbaum


Yes, it is so good to be able to say/tell people that.  After the big change, I was a little worried that my new internship would only bring up more doubts about my choice in career and would make me horribly depressed and feel helpless. However, after my first day at the community mental health center, and after being introduced to the members, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I was able to have conversations with reasoning human beings [Editor’s note: What, you’re saying toddlers aren’t reasonable?!!?], sit in on many support and therapeutic groups, and talk with my co-workers. I instantly felt more comfortable than I had in my previous placement.  

After a few days, I began noticing that I was more comfortable there than I had been in any work environment I had ever previously been in. They gave me so much responsibility and autonomy, that I actually felt I was part of the team. I was included in all staff (and member) activities, and was encouraged to ask for anything I needed/wanted: help on work, more work, less work, etc.  My supervisor occasionally pops into my office and sits next to my desk, and asks, “So, how are we doing? Anything you need? What’s going on?”  She is so invested in my learning, and making sure that I was getting some good experience out of my internship.  

I am so so glad that I decided to step up and ask for something new, to salvage my internship experience and to find one that motivates me in my work, and encourages me to continue with the career I’ve chosen (and that I love).  

I’ve done so much already in the four weeks that I’ve been there. I’ve been on numerous community outings with the members: roller skating, to Reading Terminal Market, bowling, and to a Council Meeting on Broad Street. I’ve started facilitating a group where I teach poetry forms as a type of self-expression. I co-facilitated a meeting with members and their families where I taught them about the different policies they should be aware of with the new (and absurd) proposed Budget Cuts from Gov. Corbett’s administration, and the new law requiring voters to have a Photo I.D.  (Which is a problem for many of our members.) I’ve done one-on-one orientation sessions and intake assessments with new members, and plan to do some more. I also did some research where I surveyed our members on their employment, volunteering, and educational history and goals. I presented this research to a work-group at the Department of Behavioral Health, and was invited back to shadow some macro-practice social workers!  

I’m so pleased with the turn-around, and at how much ownership I’ve been able to take in my work. It only continues fuel my excitement about the field I chose, and the many possibilities ahead of me in my career!

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About The Philadelphia Center

The Philadelphia Center offers undergraduate students the opportunity to thrive through experiential education with PHL:EXP, the Philly Off-Campus Experience. Each term we help students secure professional, accredited internships and independent housing throughout the vibrant and diverse city of Philadelphia. Students explore career paths through real-world applications and rigorous, seminar-style courses. We provide our students with the opportunity to gain independence while learning in a safe and supportive environment. Our students leave Philadelphia with a strong sense of their abilities, social and professional aspirations, and a plan for their future.

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