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Interested in social work? Hear from our Master of Social Work students

Interested in social work? Hear from our students

04/09/2023 |

Varunika, Leigh and Anastasiia are studying a Master of Social Work - we chatted with all 3 to find out about their experiences so far. 

Why did you choose to study Social Work?

Varunika: In my interactions with people experiencing disadvantage, I noticed that most of the problems they face stem from similar root causes, which can be addressed on a systemic level. I chose to study social work as I saw it as the best avenue for me to gather knowledge on how to make these systems more dynamic.

Leigh: I previously worked with domestic abuse and sexual assault victims in the context of the Scottish legal system. This inspired me to study social work as I wanted to help people more, as in my previous work my involvement with vulnerable people ended once the legal case finished – there was never any closure, as I was not allowed to do any follow-up checks with how people were coping after the case ended. I felt I had a lot of skills that could be better used in a different, less constrictive environment.

Anasatasiia: For the last few years, I have been working in the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) field and as a youth worker. As much as I’ve been enjoying the work, I have been feeling that I would like to expand my practice broader. I have a strong sense of justice, I love people, I am not afraid to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves for whatever reason… I was wanting to pursue further studies and do a master’s degree. So, naturally, social work became my choice. I was choosing between universities, but after attending an information night at UWA and hearing Stephan Lund and other teaching staff talk about the course, I realised that it is the right place for me. Master of Social Work in UWA is also recognised and highly accepted by the Australian Association of Social Workers, so it was an easy choice to make.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

V: I enjoy the freedom to ask challenging questions and not only receiving a response, but also receiving more questions in return. I enjoy being able to engage in dialogue with my colleagues in discussing challenging questions. I have the freedom to ask questions and be confident that the staff will support me in doing so.

L: I love that the degree is so varied – I am hearing from so many interesting guest speakers and am learning about so many different areas, topics, and issues. I had no idea that social work covered so many different settings, such as advocacy, healthcare, child protection and community development. I feel like I’m learning so many new skills and have support that allows me to develop my existing ones. I also particularly enjoy when Stephan brings out his ukulele!

A: It is hard to pick just one thing... I think my favourite parts of the course is the opportunity to meet many likeminded people and the work placement element of the course. I remember when I first walked into class and saw my peers, I thought wow, all these people love social work just as much as I do. I had a feeling that the class was filled with my future friends which I haven’t met yet. And it turned out that we have a very supportive group -we share resources, study together, meet after hours for dinners, share job ads. It’s fantastic to be part of this group!

What has placement been like for you?

V: I am doing my placement with a branch of a big non-governmental organisation that works to support people experiencing homelessness. As a student, I have been given a lot of freedom to choose my own responsibilities – I would shadow staff to understand the services and in turn they supervise me whilst performing their tasks. During my placement, I have had the opportunity to write support letters, referrals, and learn about systems that I have little knowledge about, being an international student. Other than gaining knowledge of the various systems in place, I have been able to get the opportunity to see and apply in practice what I have learnt in theory.

L: I’m currently on placement at a drug and alcohol counselling centre and have had 20 clients of my own so far. Working here has given me a massive sense of achievement whilst developing skills for my future. My confidence has grown with each day on placement and there is nothing better than the feeling that you are helping to make a difference in someone’s life, however small.

A: Currently I am doing my work placement regionally, in the Midwest and Gascoyne regions. It is such a unique experience and I learn something every day. See, social work in the metro area and social work in regional and rural areas isn’t the same. I am very grateful to UWA and the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) for the opportunity to learn what life in the regions is really like.

What are the most useful experiences and learnings from your studies?

V: I’ve learned that every experience is about what you make it. I’ve seen resilience, trauma, healing and the role that social workers play in supporting all of these. I’ve gained hope, that the world is capable of change for the better and I’ve begun to gain insight on how I play my part in pushing that change.

L: I have particularly enjoyed learning from the experiences of guest speakers and lived experience educators. There can be nothing more valuable than hearing a person’s story, coming straight from their heart. I feel very privileged that I was able to hear about real experiences from real people.

A: Again- my placement. Three days a week I work with Midwest palliative care, this is a community outreach service for people with life-limiting illness. Sometimes we drive two hours one way to see a patient who lives in a town of 60 people, where they do not even have a nurse. I feel so privileged to connect with people, to provide some care, emotional, and practical support and ensure the improvement of quality of life. Two days a week I work in a small-town district school. I’ve never worked with children before, and I feel that I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

What are your future career plans?

V: I’d like to work with the United Nations and help provide relief to developing countries – I’m not sure if this is what I’ll end up doing because there are a lot of avenues that open with my UWA degree, however its accreditation gives me a fair chance! My plans are to change the systems that perpetuate social issues – it’s a long road and it won’t be easy, but I have the determination and am getting the knowledge, so I know it’s possible.

L: Originally, I wanted to remain working with survivors of domestic abuse, but I am having such a good experience on my placement that I am now considering a career in the AOD sector. The good thing about social work is that there are so many different avenues to consider. I feel like I will have so many options after I graduate.

A: It might be a bit too ambitious, but I’d be very interested to try working overseas, maybe on humanitarian projects. I also have a lot of interest in the end-of-life care services- palliative care, hospice, outreach.

What advice do you have for students interested in studying social work?

V: I would advise future students to keep their minds open and foster creativity – it goes a long way.

L: I would say to any future student not to hesitate! The lecturers and other students are so welcoming and supportive, I genuinely feel like everyone here is rooting for me to do well. It’s a great environment to develop your skills and gain knowledge.

A: I guess my advice is for those who are classified as mature age students: don’t be afraid to start. I know how hard and scary it is to start a new career when you already have a job, life, and all that… but the challenge is totally worth it. Yes, it is not easy, yes, it is a huge adjustment, but you will have a lot of support from UWA staff and in 2 years (which will pass quicker than you think) you will have a new path open to you with a master’s degree from one of the best universities in Australia and top 100 universities in the world.

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