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My degree has been a transformative experience both personally and professionally

Em Allen graduated with a degree in BSc Social Work in 2023.

The social work degree has been a transformative experience both personally and professionally. I am not the same person I was three years ago, and the journey has been incredible.

I decided to embark on a social work career due to being care experienced as a child. I always knew I wanted to help others, and I wanted to be a role model to other care experienced people. Coming onto the course, I never thought I’d finish, and I worried that university was not the place for me. However, I was wrong. It was the first place in terms of my education I felt stable, accepted, and valued, especially valued for my care experiences.

I’ve been able to access so many opportunities including speaking to other students about my own experiences. I have completed two placements, which allowed me to fully develop my professional identity as a social worker. One thing that really helped me was accessing support via my personal tutor. At times, the course can provoke difficult emotions due to the nature of social work. However, support from them helped me process my learning and understanding of my personal experiences.

In terms of my placements, those experiences have been invaluable. I thrived on placements as I am much better at the relationship building, advocacy, and direct work with children than academic work.

My placement was transformative. It really helped me form my social work identity, establish my approach as a social worker, and build my knowledge and experience.

I have gained employment in a safeguarding team once registered, which is amazing as I am now looking forward to my future. I feel ready and prepared to go into practice and am not only grounded by my personal experiences but my education, values, and experiences on placement.

For me, the social work degree has been life-changing, and I now know that I am not defined by being a care experienced adult, but I am someone who now has a fair shot at achieving.

Something that I learned alongside my social work degree was the concept of hope. One of my favourite quotes is from Martin Luther King Jr. He said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Understanding hope is something that helped me along the degree and kept me going. At times when I questioned whether someone like me could become a social worker, I thought about hope and how I was not destined for poor outcomes, that if I held onto hope, I could do or be anything. Hope is something I will take forward into my social work practice as I feel this can help other people. 

For anyone thinking about coming to university who may not feel they ‘fit in’ are ‘good enough’ then please know I have had all these feelings. Despite this, and with support from the university I have finished my social work degree. This is something I never ever thought could be possible. Therefore, if you have similar feelings, you are not alone and have hope.