There are many paths to Bryn Mawr College's Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and Aba Daniels' journey was not the most direct. Aba, who holds a M.A. in Sociology, worked for a number of years in Ghana on maternal health issues and in community development, but was interested in expanding her reach to tackle international humanitarian issues. She traveled to France to improve her French and then applied to social work school because it was a "more practical and hands-on degree."
Bryn Mawr appealed to her because of its focus on women. "In my personal statement that I had to write for admission, I said that I have always worked with women and would like to continue working with women, even though it's never done in isolation - the men find their way of getting in there one way or another," Aba says. "But I also have this connection with the youth in that they open up to me. . . I said that if possible, I would like to work with young adults. . . I wanted it to be in the domain of educational empowerment."
Aba currently does her field placement at the Civic Engagement Office, where she coordinates several Praxis courses and has worked to create two new programs that focus around engaging international students in service work. "It's a meeting point of all the experience I've had over the years," she says. "I've worked in research in an academic setting, I get to use my French because I'm doing a Praxis course with French students, I get to work with the community and I get to work with young adults and international students like myself." Aba marvels at the motivation level of Bryn Mawr students: "It's ever-so academic. I get the feeling that the girls never sleep. I get my best responses at midnight. . . They're always studying."
One of the Praxis courses Aba coordinates involves students translating blogs written by women in war-torn Congo from French to English. The stories the women tell are sometimes traumatic, covering incidents of rape and violence, and the students create a virtual dialogue with the women by commenting on their blogs. This type of exchange exemplifies the advantages of a Praxis approach: through real life interactions, students are able to not only improve their language skills but also to reach a deeper understanding of the sociopolitical landscape of Congo.
Aba's newest volunteer program, Bryn Mawr Buddies, matches international students from Merion Elementary with international students from Bryn Mawr College, who will mentor them by accompanying them to their classes and out on the playground to help act as translators. "Being different is hard enough, and then you don't even understand what they're saying, which is an added challenge,” Aba says. "In a way the international students here have had this experience already and so they know how to help them adjust." Currently the mentors speak Chinese, Korean and Turkish, but the program can expand if other students are available or needed. At the other end of the spectrum is the program Aba is spearheading at the Palm Senior Center in Ardmore, where international students are being invited to showcase their cultures through activities such as dance, singing and cooking for the elderly residents.
Read more about Bryn Mawr Buddies here.