After moving to the United States mid-career, Irina Osmolovska was looking for her next step. Born and raised in Belarus, Osmolovska has two small children at home, one of which has special needs. She knew she needed a flexible career that would allow her to care for her family, and she wanted to maintain a connection to the medical field, where she had worked previously. After some research, she found social work to be the perfect fit.
In 2020, Osmolvska, then based in California, looked at several schools before deciding to enroll online at the UK College of Social Work. “The communication from UK was amazing. My papers were tricky because my degree is in a foreign language, and it was almost impossible to get transcripts because of the COVID lockdowns. But they did extra steps and were patient. It was the combination of hearing a lot about the program and my personal experience that made the decision,” Osmolovska said, adding that UK Social Work’s coursework was essential for helping her to understand the U.S. system and social work structure.
Mid-degree, Osmolvska and her family moved to Nevada. Then, the pandemic disrupted her planned field education practicum. “My original practicum was working in the behavior health part of a hospital, but they closed down completely for a few weeks due to the virus,” she said.
Osmolvska reached out to the field education team for help finding a solution and was offered an opportunity to work on aging research under the supervision of Dr. Allison Gibson at the Sanders Brown Center on Aging. Still, she was hesitant to try something so far out of her comfort zone. “Research was not my field, and I never really enjoyed it,” Osmolovska said.
She decided to push ahead and give the work a chance. Doing so changed the course of her social work career. “I ended up having two semesters with Dr. Gibson and I liked it so much. Even though I was in the online program, it felt personal because it was real people from the faculty guiding me.”
By working with older populations and veterans through her field education experience, Osmolovska realized she wanted that to be the focus of her future career path. The work, she says, is near and dear to her heart—and it has the advantage of allowing her to spend time with her family.
“My husband’s job requires a lot of traveling, so I never was able to find a full-time job just because of that. My daughter might never live independently and the opportunity for flexibility is a benefit.” Osmolovska said. “This is the plus of a career in social work.”
Irina Osmolovska graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Social Work with a Master of Social Work degree in December 2022.