We always enjoy hearing from our alumni! Ansley Tienken, a 2015 alumna of LCA, will graduate magna cum laude from UGA in May with a degree in social work. She had an amazing opportunity to study abroad in Grenada this semester. Here’s what Ashley shared with us about the experience and the major she felt led to pursue.
Unlike many students, I knew what career I wanted to pursue before entering college, I just didn’t know there was a major tailored to all of my scattered dreams and desires of helping those in need. Going to LCA fostered my spiritual growth that led me to find my passion in social work. Participating in Work-A-Thons where we were able to volunteer in the community and have the opportunity to be a blessing to others gave me such a sense of fulfillment, along with watching friends and classmates come to find freedom in Jesus during Alpha Camps and chapel. LCA gave me friends who led me to my home church where I went on mission trips and became more involved in the foster care agencies in the community. Having friends and teachers who spurred me along in my passions is quite possibly the reason I am graduating with my BSW in hopes to work for a nonprofit and counsel in the future.
The School of Social Work at UGA has given me an amazing four years, and I have been so enlightened during my time there. One of the most impactful journeys I have been on in my collegiate career was participating in a Study Abroad program for spring break this year. I have always dreamt of studying abroad and was thinking the window had closed as I was a senior and about to graduate. I applied for a scholarship to go on a trip with the School of Social Work to study women’s health in Grenada, West Indies, without really thinking I would get it, but I received a full scholarship to attend.
I made many meaningful friendships on this trip and learned a lot not only about injustices in Grenada and America but also about myself. If you’re reading this and need some inspiration or encouragement to follow through with something, you should take that risk, apply for that scholarship, go on that trip with people you don’t yet know, and take every opportunity you get to get outside your comfort zone because that’s where the most growth will be cultivated.
Upon visiting Grenada, I took a social work class focused on the history of Grenada with a project to coordinate with native students. Sitting in that classroom learning about how the U.S. bombed Grenada last year, I never would have imagined that I would be sitting in a classroom in Grenada hearing about the revolution from someone who actually lived through it or that I would be meeting students who I had spoken with via WhatsApp a year prior.
We visited St. George’s University, enlightening us on the parallels between Grenada and Athens. Just as in Athens, the university is the epicenter of the economy. Many foreigners, many who are Americans, come to St. George’s for medical school just as many students come to the University of Georgia from all over the U.S. and even the world. Once they serve their years in school, most alumni move, leaving the community in which they lived for years. Athens and Grenada are similar in that stepping outside of campus is like stepping into a different world—one of poverty and in need of community support.
Visiting the ministries and agencies in Grenada taught me so much about the services offered and the fight against mental health stigma. Encountering the individuals and the environment of the psychiatric hospital, Mt. Gay, was a very sobering experience. Mt. Gay opened my eyes to the severity of mental health needs not only in Grenada but also in America. Being able to witness how the institution is run made me more aware of the gaps in such institutions and how the structure could be very problematic. I also enjoyed looking at all the crafts made by the patients and speaking with them because it was a beautiful juxtaposition of empowering the patients and giving them human interaction after seeing many locked behind barred doors.
This trip had a huge impact on how I live my life in general. I am leaving this week so hungry to learn from everyone I encounter. There is so much that can be learned from each person’s background and culture. The week I spent in Grenada exemplified cultural humility for me. We have talked about cultural humility so often in my classes, but I have never understood it until now. Just learning about a country’s history and speaking with the people it has actually impacted is far more rewarding than approaching a place and people with colonial, savior ideology.
This experience has sparked a desire in me to learn about many cultures and take the time to understand the diversity of each of my clients. This trip far exceeded my expectations, and the interdisciplinary nature only enhanced learning from my colleagues.