When I was 18, I started volunteering in refugee camps in Calais, first as a volunteer, and then later as a coordinator for one of the charities there. Towards the end of the 11 months that I spent working in the camps, I met two American social workers, both of whom were only a few years older than me. I saw the way that they worked with people, and how much they were able to help people in ways that I’d never imagined before. They were the people there who were able to work through issues that had seemed impossible to everyone else. So, I decided that I wanted to become a social worker.
What kind of impact do you want to make on people’s lives?
I have found that a key part of the MSocW course at York is about understanding the importance of service user involvement and working collaboratively with service users to enable them to reach the goals that they have for their lives. So with this in mind, I would like to be able to have the skills to support people to achieve the impacts that they want on their lives.
What advice would you give to any A Level or BTEC students about their studies?
My advice for A level and BTEC students is to try not to worry about university! Your coursework and exams are hard enough without extra pressure! I know that I found myself feeling stressed about what university might be like, while I was revising for my A Level exams. The beginning of the course is gentle! I found that everything was very smooth and not at all overwhelming when I started the MSocW course here. I had the time to settle into my accommodation and feel at ease in new surroundings before I had to think about the course work-load starting.
What advice would you give to these students about: a) getting relevant work experience; and b) about developing the right skills and knowledge for social work?
Put yourself out there! Social Work encompasses so many different skills. So whether you get the opportunity to help with a young persons’ summer camp or volunteer with a local charity that supports older people, it’s all going to put you in good stead for your degree.
Also, don’t worry if you are unable to get experience in a statutory area of social work, like with a local authority or child protection team. The course teaches about the other areas where social work skills, and social workers, are placed, like with local charities and trusts. So if you get the opportunity to volunteer with any charity or community project, you will almost certainly be developing the skills and knowledge needed to become a good social worker.
What have you enjoyed most about the course so far?
The community amongst our year group – there are less than 20 of us – has been the most enjoyable aspect of the course so far. It really feels like a family, where we support each other, learn from each other, and have a good laugh together as well.
Has anything surprised you?
The thing that has surprised me the most about the course is how much of my past life experiences help me to understand social work practice. You don’t need to have had previous experiences or interactions with social work. So much of social work is about helping others navigate through struggles in their lives, and this is something that everyone has experienced before.
Has your understanding of social work changed since you started the course and if so, how?
Before I started looking at social work as a possible career path, I never realised the history of social work, or that so much of modern social work practice is born out of calls for social justice. Learning what I have about the origins of social work has made me feel even more confident in the need for social work, and the power it has to change society.