Social Work MSc student Eric Konadu is nearly at the end of his master's journey and he wanted to share his university experience. Eric would like to make a difference to society and completing his degree at London Met is a stepping-stone to achieving his passion.
Tell us a bit about your background
I am from originally from Kumasi in Ghana, West Africa. I was born and raised in Ghana and at the age of seven came to the United Kingdom to join my parents who had emigrated for better life opportunities.
Why did you choose to study social work and why at London Met?
I chose to study Social Work MSc because I believe that it is a career matching my skill sets and one that will also give me an opportunity to work with vulnerable people within society with the sole purpose of helping them to make positive changes that will impact the rest of their lives. Social work is a career that will allow me to interact and relate to people from different walks of life on a personal level. The role allows one to build strong working relationships with children and adults. I feel that it is one of the key professions that is key to society becoming healthier and stronger for the generations to come. I chose to study at London Met because of its’ reputation that speaks for itself. They have knowledgeable and experienced lecturers who are willing to support their students to meet their full potential. I also believe that London Met prides itself on ensuring that its students receive the best in teaching and learning, and that was something that appealed to me when I was making the choice about going to university.
Thinking back before you started your social work course, did you ever think you’d be where you are now?
I never dreamed that I would make a decision to read for a social work master’s degree. I initially wanted to be a lawyer but the pressure to pursue that path was partly down to my parents.
However, I was not sold on the idea because I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk reading cases. The thought of becoming a social worker was motivated by a desire to make a positive change in the lives of vulnerable children and their families. I started by becoming a Police Special Constable with the London Metropolitan Police Service, which didn’t last very long. I was not interested in arresting and criminalising young people because I felt that was not going to help them in future, especially for their career prospects if they had criminal records. Instead, this would cause further frustration and possibly push them to pursue a life of crime, if they felt that their options to a better were limited due to past offences.
I made a decision that I could no longer be part of the problem but wanted to be part of the solution. The path to social work became a lot clearer after I began working as a Child Protection Administrator with the Tower Hamlets Local Authority Children’s Social Services Team. The role involved working alongside social workers and professionals from other disciplines to provide help and support to vulnerable children and their families who were at risk of significant harm. I saw the passion and dedication from social workers in making a difference to the lives of these families, which struck a chord within me.
How would you describe the journey you’ve been on so far?
My journey has been a difficult one as my first degree was ten years ago. It was quite challenging getting to grips with using the library, doing research, essays and assignments. However, despite the length of time I have been away from education the process is very much the same and it was just about getting used to the routine life of a student once again. The major difference has been the level of expectation required from a postgraduate student as opposed to an undergraduate student. I have been able to make the step and managed to keep up with the pace of the course.
How has London Met and the course helped in that journey?
London Met and the staff there have been extremely helpful in providing me with the resources required to complete my assignments. They have gone to lengths to ensure that library books are up to date for study and assignments. The University has also provided many more services and initiatives to help me to maintain and improve my physical and mental wellbeing while a student at the University.
What makes social work a valuable degree?
The Social Work MSc is a rewarding and valuable degree. We are sufficiently trained and are essential in helping the well-being of vulnerable people within the community. Social work is about understanding and striving to improve the lives of people in society. As social worker’s we are able to listen to peoples' needs, from young children to people struggling with addictions, older people with physical and mental impairments to help them to cope and improve their happiness and independence.
This degree provides me with the ability to undertake a variety of different professional roles, such as a probation officer, a charity officer and a family support worker. In addition to that, as a social worker, any day is never the same or mundane. There are different situations arising every day, and social workers find themselves in many different settings from hospitals and homes to police departments. The degree will put me in a better position for a strong starting salary. Who knows, after graduating I may decide that a profession directly related to the subject area might not necessarily be for me, but the skills that I have developed through the course are valued by many employers in different sectors. These are just some of the skills I have developed over the past year: communicating, problem-solving, empathy, teamwork and time management.
What area of social work would you like to get into once you graduate?
Before I started my degree I knew for sure that I wanted to work with children’s social care from my experience of working as a Child Protection Administrator. However, after gaining experience within adult’s social services as part of my first placement, I am yet to decide the area of social work that I would like to specialise in. On my placement, I learnt how to complete eligibility assessments under the auspice of the Care Act 2014 and the Equality Act 2010. I found out that Social Workers do not have to have the answers all the time and that it was ok to seek help and support from other professionals. As an integrated service with health, Social Workers operate in collaboration with other teams to ensure that clients are provided with the best possible care and services. It is important to be honest and transparent with clients about everything from the initial interaction all the way through to the work being done with them and their families. I now know that Social Workers are advocates for their clients as well as agents of the state.
The next step in the journey is to complete the second placement. I am hoping it will be in children’s social care so that I am in a firm position to make a fully informed decision on the area in which I would like to specialise in once the course is completed.
How has the university helped in terms of inspiring you?
The University has provided the appropriate channels to ensure that students get the best out of the course. Some of these have included the talk led by the Principle Children’s Social Worker, the celebration of World Social Work Day and the Teaching and Learning Conference. The latter two events have given me the platform to deliver workshops aimed at growth, development and sharing of knowledge. The most recent placement within adult social services provided me with an opportunity to put the theory and knowledge gained at university into practice within a statutory workplace setting.
My tutors inspired me and they have had a significant impact on my development. They have provided me with invaluable advice and support throughout and continue to encourage me to push myself beyond my limitations to achieve the best possible outcome in everything I do.
Studying among diverse students has been extremely beneficial, because our country, workplaces and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnic groups. It gave me the opportunity to learn about other cultures through conversations and discussions with fellow students, which have helped me to understand different perspectives.
Sum up how you feel about this place and its impact on you?
I am extremely proud and privileged to be attending London Metropolitan University, for the rich history and academic provision. The opportunity to acquire and enhance my knowledge and gain a qualification in social work was appealing and an offer that I could not turn down. I am excited to be a part of the history of London Metropolitan and the success of its students!
Can you describe your university experience in one word?
Exciting – After being out of education for ten years, despite being challenging at times overall the journey is turning out to be an exciting one!
Do you have any advice for new students?
My advice for new students would be to ensure that before you begin the course to do as much research as possible before signing on the dotted line. It is extremely important that you speak to people that have studied the course and that also work in the field to ensure that social work is for them and that they are ready for the demands of the course. I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to be fully informed and also to have a passion for what you want to do. I will also advise prospective students to try and get some experience of what it is like to be a social worker, even if that means seeking some volunteering experience. It helps greatly to reinforce the desire and drive to pursue a career in social work.