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Working as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities inspired me to become a social worker

Student spotlight | Niamh Hanlon, BA (Hons) Social Work

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Niamh Hanlon profile

My name is Niamh; I am a 27-year-old mature student and I have just finished my second year of social work at Leeds Beckett University. I was nervous to apply to university being a mature student, and didn’t expect a pandemic to come soon after starting, but I am so glad I made this decision! I have loved my experience so far, even with everything that’s been going on in the world!

Tell us a bit about yourself and what drew you to Social Work

I worked as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities for five years before I came to university. It was something that I loved, but I felt for a long time that I was ready for a bigger challenge and a role with more responsibility. I knew I wanted to be a social worker! I didn’t have the grades to get into Leeds Beckett initially, so I taught myself an A level in sociology alongside working a full-time job (I even had to sit three exams at my old high school at the age of 25!). I passed and was accepted to Leeds Beckett. I had my heart set on Leeds Beckett for a long time; it was a convenient location for me as I already live in Leeds, but more so the feel of the university and the structure of the Social Work course was something that made me gravitate towards applying here.

What made you choose Leeds Beckett?

I had interviewed at another university before Leeds Beckett. The interview went well and I was excited at the prospect of attending there if I were not accepted into Beckett. However, on my interview day here, it felt very different. I knew from the lecturer who interviewed me that I would really enjoy my time studying at this university, and was impressed by the amount of support, services and academic material Leeds Beckett had to offer. I have not regretted choosing this university.

What has been your favourite thing about your time studying at Leeds Beckett?

This is strange for me to say, as when I was at school, I was never academic – but I have absolutely loved learning on this Social Work course. I feel like I have found a passion that I can put all my efforts into: developing new skills, learning theories, discussing politics and putting this learning into practice on placements. I feel the longer I have been on this Social Work course, the more I have loved learning and understanding how to be a good social worker. Leeds Beckett for me has been an opportunity to show myself what I am capable of, meet new people, learn things I never knew and explore a more academic side of myself that for years I doubted was even there!

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying this course?

I was apprehensive for years about coming to university as I was a mature student. If you’re reading this and feel the same, I promise attending university is not a decision you will regret. I’ve met so many like-minded, fantastic people here. There’s been a great sense of community to all support each other, especially throughout the pandemic.

If I were applying to university right now, I think I would be apprehensive about the pandemic and how this will affect my studies. It has been a difficult year learning from home, but I have received so much support from my tutor, lecturers and course leaders that I have never felt like navigating through university has been impossible or unenjoyable. Every student in our cohort was given a placement this year, which has not been possible for other students in other universities. I think that shows the dedication that went into securing every student had an opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge and skills in a social work setting. You will be supported on this course; you will be listened to on this course; you will be able to discuss a problem you have on this course; I think you will really enjoy this course.

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