Navigating a New World

by Fabeain Barkwell, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group

As I look back over the time I have spent here in Austin, it seems like it was just yesterday that I was driving down I-35 with a car full of my belongings extremely eager about the new journey I was beginning. Who would have thought that two months could go by this fast? Who would have thought that the enthusiasm I felt when I first got here would multiply into so many other emotions: from anger to excitement, sadness to frustration, but most importantly resilience. It’s no mystery that you have to possess a certain type of tenacity in order to be a social worker. The work we do calls for strong ethical values, competence, firmness in stressful situations, and calmness when dealing with crises. Collectively, my past experiences have been in more clinically-applied settings that required me to call on these ideals daily. Surprisingly though, the same skillset I developed in the clinical sector has been transferable. I have been able to utilize skills like critical thinking, clarifying, being respectful of cultural diversity, formulating plans, and above all, advocating just as much here in the Capitol.

The first few weeks here it felt like I was drinking from a water hydrant. So much information was being given, and I was just trying to absorb as much as possible. I knew coming into this internship that I was testing different waters I had never been in before. What I didn’t recognize was how complex this environment would be. There is no book or video that can prepare you for the uniqueness, good or bad, of working at the Capitol. Only a first-hand experience can do that. It is amazing to be at the center of the state, in a place where life-changing decisions are being made, and getting to play a role in that. To walk the same halls as elected officials who are bringing law into life is truly an honor.  As a policy analyst in the Legislative Study Group, I am responsible for examining legislation from the perspective of working Texas families, and then writing brief analyses of those bills. Being on this side of policy-making is so rewarding and challenging at the same time. I have had the opportunity to lock arms in solidarity to protect the Muslim community fighting against prejudice, walk side by side in a march against fear mongering of immigrants, and be at press conferences that speak of police reform, supporting those with mental illness, and ending racial profiling.

I think as a social worker the ability to comprehend the impact that legislation can have on Texas families comes as second nature. However, what can sometimes be disheartening is realizing that other people seem to not understand those impacts and instead seemingly utilize policy for their own agendas. While this is a challenge, I would say one of the most valuable lessons I have learned while being here is understanding that those who may disagree with something that I support must have a reason to be just as passionate about their belief, and that is OK. Nevertheless, cooperation and respect are always needed in order to help those on whose behalf we are representing and advocating. Reflecting on the time I’ve been here, and the three months left, I am still thrilled about the difference that I will be making. I’m looking forward to the work I will be doing in my committees, and will continue to be steadfast in the job that I have come here to do!


About GCSW Legislative Interns

This blog is brought to you courtesy of The Graduate College of Social Work's Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices. Here, they will share their unique experiences!
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