How Service-Learning Helped My Career Path

Emma Burnett is a student at Emporia State University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She served abroad with ISA Service Learning in Galway, Ireland.

As my trip to Galway comes to an end, I am starting to think about how this trip will affect my future. Everyone told me I would learn more about myself while traveling on my own but I didn’t really think I had more to learn. I’ve known since 8th grade that I wanted to be a nurse. Nursing school was always the goal. It wasn’t until I started working with kids in the summer that I realized I wanted to work with kids.

This summer proved that working with children is what I am meant to do. I was placed at and worked with a Special Needs Partnership nonprofit organization that runs completely off of donations and grants. Their goal is to provide a fun environment for children with Autism. As volunteers, we worked the summer camps. Each week it varied from Teen camp, Venture Out camp, 3-6-year-old camp and Circus Skills camp. We worked with different kids almost every week, and I loved every second of it.

In the first week of camp I met this boy who was about 13. He did not like being at camp. He told us the very first day that he would not be coming back. My goal was to change his mind. After spending hours together all day, I learned what he liked to do and what would make him want to come back. If you don’t believe in the power of dance, you should just meet this kid. He will change your mind. After a whole day of slowly warming up to me, he asked if we could play Just Dance. He danced his heart out! I have never seen someone with so much enjoyment in their eyes. After dancing, he went to head home and said, “See you tomorrow!” It was in that moment I knew I needed to have a career where I could make kids smile just like that. The work I did this summer wasn’t nursing, but it was caring for people, which is the most important aspect of being a nurse. I learned how to care for these children, care for their parents, and also care about this organization.

This organization is special. Special because everyone who works and volunteers there is very passionate. My supervisor was telling us how she got this job, she worked somewhere she hated for years. She wanted to work somewhere for people with special needs but settled for a manager position because she needed a job. After years of working double shifts and covering shifts of people who didn’t show up, she decided to move. She moved to Galway and job-searched for months. No one was hiring her. She applied to work at the Special Needs Partnership.

As soon as she had her interview, she knew this was it. All of a sudden, she got offered the job as well as many others, some that even paid more, but this partnership was her dream and she never looked back. Now, when she walks in a room, her passion radiates off of her. When I first met her, I was excited to start working and I hadn’t even met the kids yet. Seeing how she found something she loved, then worked for it and waited for it is really inspiring.

Nursing school is hard and sometimes it gets the best of me. Sometimes I don’t know if I can do it. This summer I was able to see how much this woman loved her job, and that is enough to motivate me to find the same.

Working with the Special Needs Partnership this summer helped my career path by showing me that I am the right field. It showed me that working with kids is something I will never get tired of. It showed me that doing something your passionate about is worth the wait. It showed me that the people who love their jobs, are the ones who love their lives. It showed me that going on this trip to Ireland was unbelievably worth it.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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