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Studying social work at BU is one of my proudest achievements and is one of the best decisions I ever made. I never thought I would be able to go to university and be ‘academic’ but I felt passionate about being a social worker and being at BU soon changed all that.

Image of Charlie reading a text book

This is me studying!

I assumed it would be like school, which I was never any good at, but when I got a 2:1 on my first practice essay, I knew I had made the right choice. At BU you have one essay to complete per unit and it isn’t handed in until the end of the unit, so it was perfectly manageable. At BU, it is mainly essay based with only one exam in your second year, which I prefer, as it takes some of the pressure off. I have received so much support from the lecturers and BU staff on how to write and structure essays, and the lecturers are always on hand, their door is always open (and although they shouldn’t, they answer your emails out of hours). When I first came to BU, I felt anxious about being in a huge lecture theatre, never having the opportunity to get to see or know my lectures because of the volume of students. However, at BU there is about 25-30 students in a year group and lectures are done in a class room style set up, which helps get to know your lecturer and have a more personal learning experience in and outside of the classroom.

Once my fears of academic writing had subsided, my focus turned to the practical side of my course.Were my lectures going to be dull and boring? Was I going to be watching someone talking at the front for an hour? No is most certainly the answer! While you do have to sit and listen (it is a lecture), most lectures incorporate real life practitioners who come to talk to us. The sessions are interactive and we even create  role play – where you’re the social worker! We had a practitioner come in from the local day centre for people who have dementia. The service users came in, we spoke to them, listened to their life stories, and played games. It taught us basic social work skills such as active listening, eye contact and communication. We also had carers who came in and spoke to us about their experiences of having a social worker, which was invaluable. It offered an insight into how I can be the best social worker.

BU also have a unit of practice learning, where we must explore a topic in the community relating to a service user group over several weeks.  I had service users living with HIV. It was great to get out into the community and work directly with service users, looking at their needs in the community and hearing their life experiences. It was amazing to see what all the group had learned at the end of this. I really valued this approach to learning which took place in my first year. BU want you to be hands on, preparing for practice as future social workers. These high-quality learning opportunities are ones I would not have got had I not chosen to start my career at BU.

Image of Charlie with a couple of his lecturers

Me with my lecturers

In your second year you start a 70-day placement, which is in the voluntary sector. In year 3 you also have a final 100-day statutory placement, unlike other universities, where you undertake two voluntary placements you are guaranteed a statutory placement to experience what local authority social work is like and give you hands-on experience. My voluntary placement was as a family outreach worker, targeting vulnerable families. No two days are the same and it is amazing to see the direct effect you are having on the day-to-day lives of people, big or small, because of the difference you made. It really helps you put everything you have learned into practice. I have had many opportunities to work with social workers and other professionals which add to my learning experience, with the support from university this has made me feel like a confident practitioner.

BU create a high-quality environment where you can be the best you can be, with lots of support, high quality placements and amazing teaching, helping to prepare you to be the best social worker, which exceeded my expectations of what studying would be like. It’s different for the better, and being on this journey of studying social work at BU has been the best thing I have ever chosen to do.

Charlie, BA (Hons) Social Work graduate

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