My name is Stacey Rawlings and I am a Social Work graduate from the University of Bath. Now, this is a sentence I only dreamed of when beginning my degree 3 years ago! But it’s right, I did it! And believe me when I say if I can do it, so can you! To summarise the 3 years in a couple of words, I would say it was challenging, insightful and self-reflective, and what an amazing feeling it is when you’ve completed it! All that hard work really was worth it!
When initially beginning my degree, I imagined a whole different experience than the one I had. I had pictured socialising with peers, having lunch by the lake in the sunshine and nights out, laughter and fun, whilst of course, learning too.
As a mature student, I knew this may be difficult for me at times due to needing childcare etc, but I had no idea a worldwide pandemic would impact this. Remote learning and communication quickly overtook the end of my first and most of my second year. With Covid 19 thrown into the middle of the degree, anxiety and fear were common emotions throughout.
However, with determination and support from friends, family, and the staff at the University, even Covid could not stop my cohort, and we are now due to graduate in July.
Remote communication was something I really found difficult to start with. Once I accepted it as a new challenge, surprisingly, I now enjoy it and no longer view it as secondary to in-person communication. Therefore, my advice is not to fear the unknown but to reframe it and try new things.
Refection is frequently mentioned throughout the social work degree and is a critical skill for social workers. Utilising reflection has forced me to acknowledge the challenges we faced throughout the pandemic but has also highlighted some of the positive aspects such as the development of key skills like time management, organisational skills, and arguably, most importantly, my resilience.
It also highlighted the importance of self-care. As social workers, we commonly think of others before ourselves, however, to care for and support others, we must remember our own well-being. Therefore, my advice to others would be to ensure (sometimes easier said than done), that we make time for ourselves.
A few examples of the self-care techniques I have used are writing a personal journal. In the journal I have noted things I am grateful for, things I need to complete, and situations that have emotionally affected me positively, negatively, personally, and professionally. I regularly completed 10-minute morning mindfulness sessions, simply listening to ones I found on YouTube. And my favourite method was to take walks around the block during my dinner break. This is especially good if working from home, as it encourages you to move away from your desk.
During years 2 and 3, social work students complete placements. This is the perfect opportunity to put the theory you’ve learned into practice. Reading journals, research and books is great preparation, but gaining practical experience is essential in deepening your understanding of theories and when and why they are used. Supervision can be daunting at first. I know I initially found it hard to discuss my limitations, through fear of looking incompetent, but supervision is an essential aspect of our learning and professional development so use the time wisely and remember we can all learn from our mistakes.
Challenging but totally worth it!
This degree is challenging, but the career path it prepares you for is worth it. Working with people is a real privilege and this degree tests and challenges you to be your best. Embrace it, enjoy it and remind yourself regularly why you’re doing it. And in 3 years’ time, it will be your turn to write a blog. Good luck!