by Katarina Kovic, 3 month PASEO practicum student

Katarina with some secondary students from SKIP who were involved in the Social Skills class "Club Clave"

Katarina with some secondary students from SKIP who were involved in the Social Skills class "Club Clave"

I was born and raised in Serbia where I received my bachelors’ degree in Psychology. Precarious economic circumstances in Serbia made me look for opportunities in other countries so I moved to the United States when I was 21. While my primary interests were in Mental Health Counseling, I was uncertain if I would ever be successful in it in the U.S. considering the required standards, language barriers, and cultural differences. I worked in the service industry and tried to stay involved in the field by volunteering with an autism organization and with the Red Cross, but I always knew I wanted to do more and get back to my passion in psychology. I wanted to get my masters in counseling or a similar field, but needed guidance on what next steps were best for me.

I decided to look for a practical experience that could help me make the final decision. I was in love with Latino culture and Spanish language so I searched options for practical experiences in South America. I found the process of identifying options and communicating with different NGO organizations to be a long and tiring process. However, that didn’t apply to the PASEO program. The web page and instructions were easy and clear, and email responses very prompt. Soon after contacting Dr. Brie Kohrt, director of PASEO program, I passed the initial interview and made agreements over my arrival in Peru.

The decision to join SKIP and PASEO program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I needed to get out of my routine, gain some practical experience and improve my level of Spanish. The environment in SKIP was perfect for something like that. Work with SKIP and classes with PASEO have significantly improved my knowledge of Spanish language and Latino culture. I got a closer look into the functioning of a non-profit organization and worked with inspiring people from all over the world! As the most important, I worked shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Brie Kohrt. Her lessons and mentorship were of enormous value.

During my time with SKIP and PASEO, I worked with the lead psychologist at SKIP to provide universal interventions to children and adolescents. We designed and led classes for primary-school aged children aimed at building moral and social development through videos, group dynamics, role-plays, and reflective practices. I also co-led a class for adolescents that focused on building self-awareness; we taught the teenagers about physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes that are typical during adolescence and provided them with strategies for managing these changes in order to attain their goals. 

The whole experience inspired me to move on with my education in Psychology and look for opportunities in Marriage and Family Therapy. Being able to provide counseling service in two languages and understand both American and Latino culture is an empowering tool and a great advantage. None of this would be possible without PASEO program that offers great hands on experience tailored to your personal needs.