The many faces of a social work student

There are many faces and reactions that most students will experience over the course of their time at university. Below are some of my most common ones while studying social work at UQ.

Some of these faces I only made once while others I made continuously, despite knowing better. It seems that all those times I spent procrastinating and taking photos of myself to send to friends as comic relief has finally paid off. Enjoy!

The fresh face

 This is one of the first faces that any university student will demonstrate. You’re wide-eyed and excited to start uni with your new stationery, new friends, new things to learn, new routine and positive attitude.



The bitter pill to swallow face

 This face usually comes about once you’ve experienced the joys of having to hand in a few assignments in the same week. By now you’re well acquainted with the pressure of uni, but keep reminding yourself of all the positives that are going to come from your hard work. I find that the reason I persevere is because the assessments are actually interesting, even though the deadlines can sometimes be stressful.


The I really, really don’t want to uni face

  The majority of uni students at some time will feel like the king or queen of procrastination. You’ll find that you are really good at doing everything except your upcoming assignment, whether that be cleaning your whole house, or in desperate times maybe even someone else’s house. You’ll trick yourself into thinking you’re still being productive by working on another assessment that’s not due until after the ones that should be your priority. You may even find yourself making outrageous excuses for your behaviour. My personal favourite was rationalising that binge watching House would give me inspiration and a health focus for my assignment.

The OMG my assignment is due tomorrow and all I’ve achieved is watching five hours of Will & Grace face

  If you find yourself in this unfortunate position then you will find this is the most productive 24 hours of your life. I would suggest having the marking criteria printed off to help you stay focused on what the marker actually wants. I have learnt from my mistakes of leaving assignments until the last minute and I would definitely not recommend this as a dependable technique. If you do find yourself here, get cracking and keep pushing through, one sentence at a time.

The breakthrough face

 This is the complete opposite of the ‘I really, really don’t want to assessment’ face. It means that you’ve broken through the procrastination and you’re finally getting the job done. Your hair is allowed to be a mess (clearly, look at that picture) but you’re happy because you’re making positive progress and the more you learn about the topic the more your interest grows.


The assignment is in face

 Need I say more? The sense of achievement you feel once you hand in an assignment is not something that I can describe – but let me just tell you, it is amazing! Once you’ve handed in your assignment I've found that it’s good to take a break before you start your next one, just to recharge. For me, this means spending some quality uninterrupted time with my TV even though I watched three seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S in the process of doing the assignment (don’t judge me).

The occasional pulled an all-nighter to get the assignment completed but still have to go into uni for participation marks face

 As most students will experience at some point, I have stayed up till the wee hours of the morning while finishing off an assignment. The occasions where I have been susceptible to this is when I have been in denial that I have plenty of time when in reality I have everything but time. I would also recommend avoiding this stage if possible, you don’t want to turn up to class looking like that! Something else I wanted to stress in this section though is every mark counts! If you get marks for participation (literally just turning up to class and engaging in the discussion) that’s basically free marks right there and can be the difference between a credit and a distinction. It really doesn’t matter what you turn up to class the next day looking like – the social work cohort are an accepting and understanding bunch.

Placement Stages

The I’m about to have an interview with my potential supervisor face

  This face is actually a combination of fear and excitement believe it or not. Fear, because if you’re accepted you will be working with real life people and not made up case studies. Excitement, because just like when you start uni everything is new and different and there are so many things to learn outside of the classroom. In preparation for your interview one thing I would suggest is to research the organisation. Find out what they do, what client group they deal with and understand what their values are. Doing this can really help to make you feel more prepared and help you put your best foot forward.

The internal face I made when people asked me how I was going on placement

  I’m not going to lie to you, placement is a very busy time. I had to spend four days on placement per week and still make time for normal life and paid work. It’s a huge learning curve and can take some juggling to fit everything in but it is so rewarding. To have the opportunity to learn from highly qualified social workers as well as being able to put the theory you’ve learned into practice is very exciting. One thing both of my supervisors recommended me to do if I was ever feeling overwhelmed was to make a to-do lists and prioritise it in order of importance. Doing this gave me a sense of achievement when ticking jobs off and helped to ensure that I didn’t forget anything. Plus, it gave me an excuse to buy new stationery (though, who really needs an excuse).

The developing professional face

  This is a face I have only come to know recently and it started developing while I was on placement. Being away from the classroom and in a professional environment, I saw a need to evolve from a student into a professional. The first step I took in preparation was buying some professional clothing to make sure I looked the part (which doesn’t have to be expensive). Next, I started to consider, 'What do I want to be known for by my future colleagues?' I decided, I want to be known as reliable, trustworthy, honest, hard-working and knowledgeable. I continued to demonstrate these qualities by making sure I turned up to work on time every day, looked presentable, was always honest with my colleagues about making mistakes, taking feedback on board to improve, and continuously work hard to ensuring that I followed through on everything that I agreed to do.

One of the many memorable things I learned on placement was after I said to my clinical educator, ‘I don’t know anything about that yet because I haven’t done the mental health subject at uni’. She helped me to understand that to be a social work student you have to be a knowledge seeker, you couldn't turn around and say to a client that you didn't learn about it so you can't help them. The learning doesn’t stop at graduation.

The other faces

 The most important face, in my opinion, is the other faces you meet along the way. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have enjoyed attending all my classes as much as I did, or have gotten through those tricky assessment stages without the support of my social work friends. They completely understand what you’re going through because chances are they are feeling the same way. My cohort is almost like my second family, we all know and care about each other greatly and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this amazing group of people.

I hope this slightly silly post has normalised the life of a social work student’s. There will be highs and lows along the way, times where you will want to laugh and cry simultaneously. You may question why you’re studying at university and be excited to remember when you’re chatting your friend’s ears off about something new you’ve learnt. Making the transition between being a student and a professional takes a great deal of dedication, passion and perseverance. I’m not completely there yet but I’m enjoying the process and know it will all be worth it in the end.

Meet the author...

My name is Erikka, I am a third year social work student interested in the health and ageing field. On a personal note, I am a serial TV show watcher and a crazy crocheter.


Last updated:
1 December 2016