I would say most students undertake a degree due to the dreams of their childhood, or because they’re already in the job but need that degree. I, however, changed my mind plenty of times, from professional saxophonist to a history teacher – both careers worlds apart from social work.
Somewhere down the line I ended up on a business administration degree course, close to home, so I could fulfill my then-found aspiration of becoming a personal assistant just like in the film The Devil Wears Prada (HA!). But throughout the degree I began feeling more and more dissatisfied.
A requirement of the degree course was to undertake a two-week work placement in an administration department. I just so happened to end up in a setting concerned with families and parenting, where one of the team members was also a previous counsellor of mine. I absolutely loved it, sitting in on the meetings, hearing the case loads they were dealing with, what was going on with the company etc. But it wasn’t until I went out to a group session with two team members that I thought to myself, ‘Hang on a minute, what are you doing? You want to be getting stuck in, helping those women, listening to them and understanding their problems, not typing up the practitioner’s notes.’
I decided to talk to my previous counsellor to see what she thought of my sudden interest and she was thrilled, I remember her almost jumping up and down and showing me her goose bumps. She advised me what to do with regards to volunteering and universities and if I needed any books or any more information. We still keep in touch to this day, and I often pop into her office for a quick chat and a cup of tea.
Shortly after my application, I began to volunteer at a youth club fortnightly and started to contemplate whether this was the right thing for me to do. I was preparing myself for yet another change of mind, getting confused and wanting to retreat. But then I considered my school years, and why it might be one of the best decisions I will ever make.
As a youthful teenager I went through a lot of problems during my high school experience; I’ll always remember the school nurse frowning upon my panic attacks and never considering my stability or mental health; I was perceived as a problem to the school and this made me feel a burden to everyone around me.
However, I will never forget those who helped me during my struggles. My amazing form tutor – who would let me talk with him rather than going to assemblies that made my anxiety soar; the wonderful and passionate pastoral care manager who had the brightest red hair and red lipstick I had ever set my eyes on, who I still sometimes bump into in the local supermarket; a counsellor who visited me at school and at home who I still talk to today; and my other counsellor who was super cool and Australian and reminded me that elephants never forget, because when she left she gave me a small wooden elephant.
All of these people made such a positive impact on my life, and I still remember silly little details about them today. They will always be in the back of my mind, and – however cliche – I hope to someday be the reason why someone has found the strength or courage to carry on.