Post-Summer Internship Reflections: The Power of Affirmation

By: Luis H. Garay

The first time I heard the word affirmation was my junior year of college during a retreat. At the retreat, all participants gathered around a circle and shared words about the other people in the circle. These words were qualities and traits that merited praise and recognition. I remember watching and listening to each person receive the kind words that were spoken about them.  I realized then the power of recognition and, in turn, that of affirmations.

In remembering this story I am called to think of my own moments of affirmation. A past moment of affirmation has been deciding to attend graduate school to pursue a career in student affairs. The most recent moment of affirmation has been this past summer during my internship experience as a NODA Intern for University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Prior to my summer internship I was unsure if I was on the right path to be as successful and to excel as I had hoped in the student affairs field. My graduate assistantship is fairly autonomous and moments of affirmation are not as prevalent as they are in a traditional supervisor and graduate assistant relationships. This is why I was extremely looking forward to my summer internship: I was to be working with a supervisor who would be able to evaluate what I have learned so far in regards to student affairs and to aid in my professional development.

The moment of affirmation came during a regular one-on-one meeting between my supervisor and I. During this conversation, they recognized the knowledge I possessed from my courses, inherent characteristics of mine, and a learned skill set that would be of aid beyond my internship experience and into my professional experience and work. It was here that I was able to understand and recognize that I truly was on the right path for this field. I knew that if I went along this path I would find the success that I had envisioned for myself when I first decided to attend graduate school for a student affairs career.

My summer internship experienced served as an affirmation for my being on the right path in the field of student affairs. However, in writing this blog post and thinking about my internship experience and the story at the beginning, I am reminded how I can affirm others as well. I not only acknowledge skills, qualities, or characteristics within friends and cohort mates but also am sure to vocalize my affirmations.  I am a firm believer in the power of words. Affirmation has added dimension to my words by filling them with recognition…and that can be a powerful thing.

What does the power of affirmations mean for you? How will you make more of a conscious effort to vocalize your affirmations towards others?

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