This Strange Year

When someone says they are a ‘social worker’, we all have an image that comes to mind, whether positive or negative. Abbie Stebbing is a 27-year-old full-time Social Work Master’s student at the University of Sussex, just starting out in her first year, first term, first modules.  She wanted to take a snapshot of her journey, focusing on life outside of the course as well as the piecing together of her social work identity.  Over the next two weeks Abbie writes about the strangeness of going back to university full-time, and how these moments feel like learning experiences in themselves.

This year, I took a personal leap. 

In the early winter, I was becoming accustomed to a new role in my job. Through staff changes I had been moved into a role I was unfamiliar with. The fire in my belly that my previous role had given felt extinguished. I had been previously working as a support worker, and with industry budget cuts, the role could not be extended. The job I ended up in was gratefully received by me. A saving grace from potential redundancy. It was stable, well managed and a good period of calm, whilst I looked at my options. 

I am not generally someone who easily adapts to major changes, but I was searching for something more than what that job offered. I realised the difference was that in that role I signposted and directed “customers”. I was missing holding a case load, managing risk and coordinating, promoting and making change happen- hopefully.

Being an indecisive creature, there was a substantial amount of bouncing ideas off those close to me. Second to that, being an impatient creature, I wanted to make things happen instantly. Thank goodness for rational people.  

I reflected on my prospects and decided a further education in Social Work was my way forward. I discussed the potential future with my loved ones and the potential impact it would have on our lives. It would mean two full time years, where working outside of university commitments would be stretched. To avoid haste I decided to defer. In the January I made an application, a determination to “ace it” grew. I attended interviews and got accepted. In a flurry of enthusiasm as well as a grounding awareness of the time it would take to become qualified, I weighed up my options and requested to start the same year. I had chosen my path now, why wait? Within a short email exchange I had now enrolled for the immediate September. Leading up to the start of the course, I went to work and returned, I knew I felt I could be somewhere else making a difference and I was getting closer to the gateway towards that career. I felt the assured that it was the right choice. Excitement and passion outweighed the apprehension of leaving a full time job. 

Before I started the course, they asked me to complete shadowing with social workers, which further affirmed my passion. I leaped at the chance and savoured the opportunity. In shadowing, I went through a flurry of feelings. Getting to the required goal of “qualified” felt like a distant dream, I was so in awe of the social workers’ knowledge and skill, but also how welcoming they were of me. They encouraged me to join the field, and I made the most of the opportunity, determined to soak up the insight they shared with me like a sponge.

The journey had started, now I just had to count down to day one.

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November 29, 2016. Social work education, Social work practice.

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