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  • Writer's pictureINSMS International Network for Students of Migration Studies

Social Worker at the Spanish Commission for Refugees

Our very first interview was with Micol Montesano, a graduate student from Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona that worked as a social worker at the Spanish Commission for Refugees, and shared some advice on how to overcome the obstacles when you are left to your own devices!

Micol is 28, and comes from Italy. She did her bachelor studies in Social Work, and holds a master’s degree in Migration Studies. She worked at the Spanish Commission for Refugees which is a non-profit organisation working to defend and promote human rights, and to contribute to a complete development of refugees, stateless persons, and migrants in need of international protection and/or those who are exposed to social exclusion.

As a social worker, she was in charge of the asylum families’ integration process:

“I assisted with the access to health/mental health care system, educational programmes, legal orientation, affordable housing, job market placement, conflict mediation, and cross-cultural communication. I was also responsible for technical and economic reporting of the Asylum Integration Programme.”

Her working day was very versatile, as she would organise the daily agenda with her colleagues, and then follow up with the asylum cases and family appointments with doctors, psychologists, or school administrators. She would also participate in weekly visits where they would check cohabitation with other families, and also organise workshops on different topics, such as domestic violence, gender equality, or legal framework for asylum claims. She also contributed to filling the internal database of the organisation.

She enjoyed her job as she was in direct contact with asylum seekers:

“It helped me work directly with asylum seekers’ families, following the integration process from the beginning. Since it was a front-line job, I was working in person every day, and it would have been more efficient working remotely some days in order to speed up the bureaucratic part.”

Navigating the landscape with no network

Even though she says she was lucky for finding a job within a month of her graduation, she still faced obstacles during her studies:

“The University Pompeu Fabra did not give me any chance to do internships or projects in partnership with NGOs. The job career point at the university was not prepared, and it did not provide me with any contacts of institutions in the field. For future improvements, I suggest universities create a network of local NGOs interested in having graduate students working or doing a paid internship with them.”

She compares this to her bachelor studies where they had to do internships every year, and she found doing more than 300 hours of internships each year very useful, as it provided her with the experience, and made it much easier to find a job after graduation.

Right after graduating from Migration Studies, she updated her CV, and started applying for jobs. She tried to expand her knowledge beyond her studies, and made use of all the resources, including the public employment service:

“I asked some friends for advice, and acquaintances about NGOs and job portals used in the city. I visited some projects and NGOs to learn about their missions, and proposed collaborations with them. I signed up for some tutor sessions with the University career centre, and the municipal job centre, and I registered myself as unemployed in order to get free access to some courses.”

Despite all her activity with the career centres and services, she realised that most offices she visited gave her the same advice, focusing only on how to improve her CV and LinkedIn profile, without focusing on the actual job offers in the city. She ended up applying for jobs through the job portal she found herself, and she spoke to some friends and acquaintances in the social sector. This is how she ended up working in a job she imagined she would do after her graduation.

More paid opportunities in the migration field

When asked which changes she would like to see in the migration field jobs, Micol says she would like to see less volunteering opportunities for graduates, and more paid opportunities. She also thinks that migration study programmes should be more specific, and should train people in certain expert areas, such as mental health, camp management, or child protection.

Tips for success

Micol has several of tips for you:

“Make a map of the NGOs present in the area you are studying, visit them, and volunteer there. Study the local language of the place where you are studying or are willing to work. Register for youth programmes, for example EVS, EU Aid Volunteer. Enroll in the municipal employment service. And - specialise yourself in a migration cluster, such as Protection, WASH, Health, Gender. Most of the jobs in the migration field are highly specialised ones.”

*INSMS is always looking for interesting career paths of former migration students. If you would like to share your professional history with the network, please contact us by email:, Subject: P2P campaign

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