Hometown: I was born in Humble, Texas, just outside of Houston, but I’m only American by birth – no one in my family is American. We’re from Oranjestad, Aruba. Being Aruban, from a colony island, I have Dutch citizenship, so the Netherlands is the motherland. Before college, I lived for two years in Doha, Qatar; four years in Muscat, Oman; and eight years in Kuala Belait, Brunei. That’s one thing I’ve realized, being this third culture kid, is that I don’t have just one hometown. I have many, and they’re all equally important.
Educational Background: For undergrad, I went to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., where I majored in psychology while bouncing between a business or pre-med minor, not really sure what I wanted to do. Because I had taken so many culture and language classes, I picked up a minor my junior year in international studies. I was more focused on extracurricular activities: working for Student Affairs in the multicultural affairs department, running student orientations, and bringing more diversity to the campus. I wasn’t as focused on my classes as I needed to be, but the extracurricular involvement definitely provided tools I needed to be successful at Arcadia.
Specialization/Concentration: Trauma, and the dual program in Counseling and International Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Career Background: When I arrived at St. Vincent, they didn’t have international student orientation or many support systems in place. By the time I left, I had been president of the international student union for about three years, helping to build up that organization while also helping St. Vincent establish a multicultural student life department. I was working in administration at that point, in addition to going to school, because I really wanted to reach out and help put things in place to help people.
After graduating, I lived in Des Moines, Iowa, for a year. I worked at an inpatient unit in hospitals and also in community-based treatment, going into clients’ homes as therapeutic support staff and eventually as a team leader. After relocating here, I’ve worked as a neurocognitive specialist, taught and co-facilitated group domestic violence programs, and worked in an adolescent behavioral hospital.
Why Arcadia? Initially, when I chose to study psychology in undergrad, I intended to do something in the medical field, but the idea of going to medical school to specialize in psychiatry did not appeal to me. In Des Moines, I enjoyed working in the field with clients with severe diagnoses – bipolar, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, borderline personality disorder – but I felt very limited in my role. I wanted to be the one making the decisions regarding treatment plans. So I decided to look for an LPC or master’s level licensure program and go on to a Ph.D. program. When I found Arcadia and discovered the dual degree program, I’d never seen anything like it. The level of multicultural awareness here was something I’d never really experienced before, and something I was happy to be involved in.
What have been some key experiences during your time at Arcadia? The multicultural competency class we are required to take as part of the counseling program (taught by Dr. Angela Gillem) really woke me up. Living in Iowa, I experienced a significant amount of racism and discrimination. Through this class, I learned how to channel what I had gone through, how to diagnose it, how to work with it and make it something constructive rather than something destructive. There was so much information and I wanted to absorb everything. That class had a profound effect on me. Also, my practicum taught me about how to listen to myself and do the self-care component, which has transformed my life.
My advisor, Dr. Eleonora Bartoli, has helped me tremendously with my own biases. I had a strong bias against a certain population, and she helped me through it, opening my eyes to different populations I thought I would never be exposed to. She is probably most responsible for my emergence into feminism, something I never thought I would really understand beyond a counseling level, and into its literature and theory. She has helped me immensely in becoming the best person and clinician I can be, someone that will be able to help everyone, not just specific populations I have interest in.
Within IPCR, Dr. Bill Jacobsen has impacted my life in ways I don’t have time to describe. I’ve taken several of his classes, and he’s helping me become more involved in conflict resolution. I’m going to Rwanda this summer as part of the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) training program, and I’m looking to get on the board of conflict resolution in Philadelphia to do more student outreach. It’s just his way of thinking: whenever I’m counseling or doing therapy I always think about him and try to channel him, just to be that calming presence, that compassionate listener that other people need.
I wanted to become a student leader in a professional organization - I went to a professor, and three days later, I was at a board meeting. I wanted opportunities for research - I went to a professor, and two weeks later I was writing an international review board (IRB) proposal. In graduate school, the possibilities are endless, and your intellectual potential is limitless. There’s nothing you can’t do; and when you think you’ve reached your limit, talking to a professor will show that there is no limit.
Research: I picked up a project my first semester working with Teen Uprise. They contracted me to do some data analysis on the effect of the organization on maladaptive behavior in participants of the program. Over a series of assessments, I tested to see if the students were improving and if the program was having a positive effect on them; with that would come more grantwriting, more information, and more support to the organization. I was able to put together something they could use, which we presented at The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference in Philadelphia last year.
For my master’s thesis, I am putting it through IRB now to discuss and examine post-migration stressors in refugees. I want to conduct interviews with refugees and resettlement agencies to find out, “What do you like about America?” “What trouble did you have coming here?” “What do you miss about your home country?” I want to see how difficult it is -- not just through a series of questionnaires but by having them answer open-ended questions for an insight into how difficult the journey is. I interned at a refugee resettlement agency in Philadelphia, Nationalities Service Center, and am working with them on a curriculum to teach classes there. I’ve interacted with many refugees there, so I know the struggles they’ve told to me. The wider audience and academic world doesn’t understand just how hard it is. I want to create a documentary from the data, and come up with strategies and interventions that counselors and conflict transformation specialists can use to work with that specific population.
Career Goal: I’m reviewing my options, but the current plan is to stay in Philadelphia, get the LPC licensure, then go on to a Ph.D. program in clinical or social psychology. The dream is to create interventions, strategies, and programs for incoming refugee, minority, underserved, and vulnerable populations that are culturally sensitive, empirically based, and effective in resolving issues or helping these populations to resolve issues. Instead of imposing a western model, to really go into their respective cultures as much as possible to draw out what their true needs are and bring them into a setting where they feel comfortable sharing, resolving their issues in ways they are accustomed to and creating effective interventions.