Intern Spotlight: Guanhua Nie

by | Jul 14, 2020

 Guanhua Nie (chinese name)

My name is Guanhua Nie and I am currently an MSW student at University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs.

I was born in a small city in the northeast of China and was raised in a family that emphasizes much on diligence and education. When I was 18, I left my hometown and studied at Peking University in the capital of China, and like many students of my age, my parents helped me select my major. After studying at the English Department for one year, I realized language and literature were not my passion. I made a brave decision and took a gap year to explore my personal interests in various fields. Due to this experience, I also fell in love with traveling and I was keen to learn about different cultures. This is also one reason why I applied for international graduate programs after graduation.

Coming back to college after the gap year, I transferred my major to Sociology and chose Psychology as my minor. I finally discovered my passion for understanding human behaviors and my interest in providing human-related services. I was impressed by how psychological mechanisms and personal life experiences can shape the way individuals are and felt excited to learn how individual behavior interact with familiar, social, and cultural factors.

Hoping to work with children and youth, I first went to Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to advance my knowledge in human development after graduating from college. Out of my intrinsic passion for clinical work, I came to UCLA Luskin to continue my second master’s degree in Social Welfare.

In the U.S., I was amazed by the fantastic prevention and intervention programs initiated by scholars and practitioners, and I was also introduced to the concept of cultural humiliation. As an international student who has studied and lived in multiple countries, I have the privilege to understand how social and cultural context might make some “successful models” ineffective for certain populations. To make local programs sustainable, scholars and practitioners need to become “the expert of being a non-expert.”

Similarly, interning at community-based mental health clinics serving the Asian American population, I again came across the challenge of applying the U.S.-based knowledge and skills with a culturally sensitive lens. One simple example is that I even found it awkward to talk about emotions in Mandarin Chinese compared to that in English. The usage of words is deeply rooted in cultural norms as well. Fortunately, the relationship itself matters so much, especially for younger clients. Knowing the power of having “at least one” nurturing and stable relationship, I saw the possibilities of making positive changes. I learned about iACT through Global Public Affairs (GPA) at UCLA Luskin, and I admire iACT’s achievements and its philosophy of finding “refugee-led solutions.” This work philosophy aligns with my personal belief: the key to effective international practice and sustainable changes is to empower the beneficiaries to identify their needs, take advantage of local resources, and come up with their own solutions.

iACT because I believe in the power of making human connections, and I know we can build a better world together through a strength-based, and trauma-informed way.

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