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IARU Internship Reflection

I came to graduate school with an agenda to effect social change and an open mind to learn from others who share that mission. I am a social worker by training, nearly half way through a dual masters in Social Welfare and Public Health at UC Berkeley. With an earnest interest to make the most out of my academic career, I applied to spend my summer break as an IARU Intern at Oxford—the Institute was a perfect fit because its collaborative approach to issues surrounding population ageing yielded opportunities for me to apply my social welfare perspective to advancing knowledge in the field. 

Scholarship is a team effort. Embarking on any new project brings with it new challenges, and the Institute took special care to connect me with a research project that matched my interests and time in the program. As an American orienting to both new research and a new geographical context, mentorship provided by Institute faculty was an essential part of the learning process. The Institute takes a wide angle view on population ageing and benefits from its multidisciplinary perspective. I was impressed by the Institute’s seminar topics, which not only focused on long-established ageing issues like health and economics, but also incorporated emergent applications from big data and machine learning. Oxford University brings together a range of backgrounds and viewpoints, and the Institute is no exception. Weekly seminars, delivered by experts and students alike, gave me an opportunity to learn about and discuss current research in various fields, and highlighted the Institute’s regard for innovation and new perspectives as part of the collaborative process. 

There’s no place like Oxford. Its dreaming spires, ancient library reading rooms, and traditions of rigorous scholarship inspire a context to engage in thoughtful study. The city has an abundance of attractions to see and meadows to stroll, and strikes a comfortable balance between active and serene. Research and writing is hard work for me, so environment matters. Few places offer such a density of opportunities to immerse in study, and Oxford delivered for me. 

Above all, I believe the most valuable takeaway from my experience was the research itself and the collaborative relationship-building behind it. I spent 6 weeks researching homelessness among ageing populations in the UK, which is a generous amount of time to be immersed in a single topic. I feel a sense of accomplishment to have expanded my understanding in a critical part of my field with such attentive detail, and I feel a sense of humility to have learned from others who have dedicated their efforts to such work. The project gave me an opportunity to exercise critical thinking about issues critical to my role as a social worker, which will no doubt serve my clients well. The Institute supported my mission to effect social change through furthering my training in research and ageing. It was an experience like no other—one I will carry with me for the betterment of my professional skill and the clients I serve.

About the Author:

Drew Hockman was an IARU intern at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing May - June 2019. He is a dual master student in social welfare and public health at the University of California, Berkeley.