Christ.  Scholarship.  Service.

Practicum in Romania challenges social work majors

Huntington, Ind.-Sarah Cherry looks around the dull white room at Kids' Club in Sighisoara, Romania, and notices six-year-old Georgiana grinning up at her with crooked and rotting teeth. Through this instance and countless others, Cherry came to the troubled realization that many people in the world don't have the power to make the choices that she herself feels like she has taken for granted.

"I find myself increasingly thankful for everything that God has granted me," said Cherry, a junior social work major from Huntington, Ind. "Instead of easily wanting more than I need, I hope to continue challenging myself to be amazed by all that I already have, whether that be relationships, possessions, abilities, services or even strong, straight teeth and long, hot showers."

Sarah Cherry with children from Kids' Club (Marian, Ramona and Denisa)
Cherry was one of a group of five Huntington University students who, along with Grace McBrayer, director of first year students and volunteer services, traveled to Sighisoara, Romania, and worked with a Christian-based social service organization, Veritas, over January Term.

Three other HU students worked at Mission Year in inner-city Atlanta, Ga.; with a school social worker in North Carolina; and at His House, a foster children center in Miami, Fla.

(left to right) Melissa Keighin, David (employed by Veritas, the agency where the students worked during January Term), Samantha Sutorius and Sarah Cherry
The Romania trip was offered to junior social work students who were required to have a practicum in a cross-cultural setting. The initial goal for the practicum was to create an experience with a social worker in an environment that is extremely different than those with which they are familiar.

For the practicum, the students had to take a preparatory course in the fall semester with Dr. Paul Michelson, distinguished professor of history, to learn about the culture and the language. Throughout their practicum, students were required to write 12 three- to five-page journals about their daily experiences along with the applications to social work, a planned change process for someone that they met with in the organization with whom they were working, self evaluations and a summary paper when they returned to the university.

The group that worked in Romania roomed with host families. They spent most of their free time getting to know the families and the culture. Through this the students noticed how gracious the people were.

"One of the biggest things we noticed was the people's genuine kindness and hospitality," said Samantha Sutorious, a junior social work major from Fort Wayne, Ind. "Everyone, no matter how much or little they had, always wanted to give us something or do something for us."

One way that Sutorious experienced the Romanians generosity is when she and another student couldn't find a place to purchase ground beef.

"Samantha and Emily wanted to make American cheeseburgers for their family, but they couldn't find a place," said Cherry. "Katti, one of the Kids' Club assistants, volunteered to walk them across town to point out a meat shop."

The students were extremely touched by the way the Romanians went out of their way to make them feel comfortable in their surroundings. The sacrifices made by the organizations that they worked for challenged the students and changed their views on the way they live life.

"After what we experienced we decided that we had made a difference in coming," said Cherry. "Even if it was not a monetary one and even if some of that difference was for our own learning experience, we would not have even known of this particular need had we not come to Romania."