I confess that I’m enjoying the fact that I’m now finished with my second year of graduate school and that my summer classes are finally over. Last summer, I took four courses so this summer with only two courses it felt like a breeze. Also, these courses were of great interest to me because of my focus on college students and how these classes, i.e. Crisis Assessment and Interventions, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Interventions, would increase my knowledge and skills for that population.
Last year, in my posting about my first year in graduate school, I wrote about my experience as the often lone student of color in my program and in my classes. This past year, there were moments, again, that I found it difficult to be among classmates who made racially insensitive remarks or were simply clueless about diversity. You can read about some of my thoughts in my personal blog here. However, it’s like most things, for those of us who are marginalized on our campuses, in our academic programs, and in our society, we somehow make our way through. I’m fully counting on these experiences to increase my resilience. At the same time I’m fully aware that my privilege as a model minority (or at least I’m not getting killed for what I look like in 2016), as middle-class, as college educated, as straight, and as Christian allows me to deal with discrimination, bias and prejudice in ways that others cannot such as African-American students.
So, in my second year, the issue of being the “only one” was muted somewhat due to my simply getting used to that reality. Instead, this past year was about deepening my knowledge and honing my counseling skills. I did this in part by choosing to be a full time intern at a local university even though it was not required to do so. In this practicum internship, I was privileged to counsel nearly a hundred college students with issues ranging from homesickness and heartbreak to crippling anxiety and suicidal ideation. It was in these sessions that I increased my empathy for the experience of today’s college student, and recognized the gift of listening and extending empathy. I also experienced what it means to have a supervisor who truly cared for me and looked out for my best interests as well as discovering the value of consultation with other counselors including my co-interns.
And, in this second year, I also discovered that, yes, I can actually be a counselor. Let me explain more…
Even though my program isn’t a pure co-hort model, I often see many of the same students that started the program as I did in Fall of 2014. Thus, it was encouraging to reflect with classmates about the progress we’ve made since we started “way back when.” It was especially meaningful to talk with one classmate whom I partnered for role-plays in our first practicum class. We talked about how nervous we were and how we lacked confidence, as we knew we were going to counsel our first client that semester.
Now, here we were, nearly two years later, and my classmate is now working as a full-time counselor this summer and is doing well. Her confidence has soared due to the great instruction and the opportunities to do the work of counseling in four different practicums. As we enter into our third year, which includes a full-time internship, I believe that by the time we graduate we will be able to fulfill our vocation with integrity, and, yes, with a confidence based on an education that has been thorough along with faculty who have been committed to our learning and to our professional and personal growth.
Elena Yee is a counselor-in-training at Rhode Island College, completing the last year of her Counseling Program in Providence, Rhode Island. She is looking forward to bringing together her years of experience in Student Affairs to the vocation of clinical mental health counseling to serve marginalized and under-represented students on college campuses. She is interested in how stereotype threat, microagressions and campus culture affect the mental health of such students and what counselors can do to support them in their retention and eventual graduation. You can learn more about Elena at http://theviewfromherebyelenatyee.blogspot.com