Written by Writing Assistant Rebekah R.
When I was first nominated to work at the writing center during the summer before my Sophomore year at Hope, I was interested in the opportunity to get paid to help my fellow students with their writing. I was excited to have an on-campus job that I would enjoy, but I didn’t really understand how it would connect with my future career goals. At the time, I was considering a career in the medical field. After I told this to one of my fellow Writing Assistants (WAs) on the second day of our August training, she asked me a question that puzzled me: how do you think that working at the Writing Center will tie in with your future career?
In that moment, I had no idea how to answer her question. I told her that I didn’t think that working at the Writing Center would have any connection to my career goals, but I was excited to have the job and explore writing as one of my interests. I assumed that if I were looking for a career in writing, editing, or journalism, like some of the other WAs were, that the job would actually prepare me for my career. On the other hand, since I was interested in science and health care, working as a WA would have little to no impact on my future. At this time, I didn’t realize that the job would allow me to improve or gain skills beyond writing and editing.
About a year later, I decided that the medical career that I wanted to pursue was physical therapy (PT). The first time that I job shadowed a physical therapist, I was surprised. Much of the work that she did looked a lot like what I do at the Writing Center. I began to see how I could have answered the question that the former WA posed the year before. Here are three ways that working as a WA will help me be a better physical therapist in the future.
1. Teaching –
Other than their role as medical professionals, PTs act as educators. During appointments they teach their patients stretches and exercises for alleviating their pain and/or other symptoms. They teach patients how to perform these exercises at home and how to continue them throughout their lives in order to maintain improvements. Similarly, as a WA, I work with students to teach them how to become better writers, not only for the paper that they are working on in the session, but for all of their future writing endeavors.
2. Sensitivity –
PTs are professionals who must be sensitive to the personal issues that their patients face. Many patients come to the clinic with chronic and/or debilitating pain. Others face frustration with their injuries or are hopeless, feeling that they will never improve. In the same way, many students bring their papers to the Writing Center having put enormous amounts of time and effort into them. Some feel that they are terrible writers, and no matter how hard they try, their writing will never improve. As a WA, I have to be sensitive to the work that my fellow students have already put into their papers before they meet with me. Like PTs, I am constantly looking for encouraging ways to guide those I help in improving their weaknesses and maximizing their strengths.
3. Intercultural Understanding –
As a future PT, one of my goals is to be able to use my Spanish skills to work with Hispanic populations, but even PTs who don’t seek out these opportunities find themselves in situations where cultural competence is key. As a WA, some of my most memorable appointments were working with students for whom English is a second language. Right from the start of the appointment they would often ask me to please check for their grammar mistakes, but typically, the majority of my feedback actually had to do with their writing style. In order to direct the students towards the direct and concise U.S. English writing style that their professors would expect, I had to have a good grasp of how writing style in other languages and countries differs from the one that I grew up knowing.
All things considered, I am excited to graduate and move on to a career that I will enjoy at least as much as I have enjoyed working as a WA. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up deciding to pursue PT and I think about how I slowly fell in love with helping other students improve their writing. Maybe, while experiencing how satisfying it is to teach others and help them achieve their goals as a WA, I realized that this was the type of thing that I wanted to continue doing for the rest of my life.
Written by Writing Assistant Rebekah R.