Student experience: Studying social work at Kent

‘It’s a great degree that also gives you the opportunity to explore multiple career options outside of just being a social worker.’

Kimani Reid is in the final year of his BA Social Work degree at Kent. In this interview, he reflects on what he’s gained from his experiences over the last three years – he picks out his highlights, tells us about the award-winning diversity work he’s been involved with during his studies and explains how the course has prompted his decision to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

Can you tell us why you chose to study your Social Work degree at Kent? 

I chose Kent as the place to study my Social Work degree because I was impressed with the standard of the University. I think what separates Kent from the other universities I had initially considered, is the atmosphere. I was always given a warm welcome whenever I took a tour on campus or corresponded with the members of staff. Additionally, a few of my friends had studied here before and they spoke highly of the university. I decided to make Kent my first choice and I was delighted when I was accepted.

What have been some of the highlights of the course for you? 

There are so many highlights to choose from. I really enjoyed interacting with service user volunteers, who often spoke during lectures or assisted with the role play exercises, in preparation for our placement. I enjoyed the programmes that were coordinated by STAND (Student Action Network for Diversity) and I also enjoyed the riveting class debates that we had in various modules.

How has the course made a difference to you?

The Social Work course has taught me about the importance of having empathy and good communication skills when interacting with others. There are other skills that I am grateful to have acquired. However, these two components are vital to consider in any career path. I think the course reiterated to me that it is important for us to see people as people; regardless of their gender, age, sexual orientation, race or their socio-economic background. I am grateful for this reminder and I have certainly applied this not just in the work environment but also in general.

You won two awards for your work on diversity during your studies – congratulations! Can you tell us more about that?

In 2019, I was recognised by the Medway African and Caribbean Association (MACA – a Kent charity promoting awareness of African and Caribbean culture) with two awards. One was a MACA Sankofa Young Black Achievers for Citizenship and the other was a MACA Young People United Diversity Award.

I was commended particularly for my involvement with the Student Action Network for Diversity (STAND); STAND was originally started by Dr Sweta Rajan Rankin (Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Kent) and other lecturers as part of the Social Work course. It’s a group that I’ve been involved with since the first day I started university. My involvement with STAND helped me develop leadership skills, which I have been able to apply in other facets of my life.

STAND aims to be an avenue for social work students and other students who have a passion for matters relating to social justice, diversity, equality, and the rights of all people. STAND members meet to discuss different social issues, deliver presentations and host different events that spark conversation within both the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and the University in general. We have also created posters to recognise different days on the diversity calendar.

I led a few presentations with other STAND members. Topics we covered included human trafficking, exploitation and county lines, World AIDS Day, World Social Work Day and LGBTQ+ Month. The presentations were given in front of the social work cohort, either during special lectures or through events that we have hosted.

We have also hosted film nights in the past. For example, we watched ‘Black Panther’, which then prompted us to discuss racial inequality and the effects of racism within the BAME community. ‘Call me Crazy’ is another film we watched and reviewed. This film highlights mental disorders and how they are viewed in society. The film nights gave us the chance to interact in a more informal setting and students from different courses also attended and joined in the discussion too.

You’re just about to graduate, what’s next for you in terms of study and/or career plans; has your degree prompted you to think differently about which aspect of social work you want to pursue?

Now that I am about to graduate, it is my hope to continue studying at postgraduate level – I am hoping to complete a Master’s degree in Psychology.

I have always been fascinated by the mind and mental health awareness. The social work course focuses on helping various service users, including those who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders or those who struggle to cope with everyday life in some way. There is a module in the second year which really puts this into perspective as well. The module focuses solely on mental health. As part of the module, we were taken on a field trip to the Bethlem Museum of the Mind in February 2020 (before lockdown) and we got to learn about how the perception and treatment of mental health disorders has changed over the years.

This trip to the museum, the mental health module as a whole and my placement experience encouraged me to do research into clinical psychology. I am very passionate about mental health and with the knowledge I have acquired in the social work course, I hope to eventually become a clinical psychologist.

I would say the social work course is good – it’s a great degree that also gives you the opportunity to explore multiple career options outside of just being a social worker.

And finally, what’s been particularly memorable about the Kent experience for you? Would you recommend Kent to others? 

One thing I will always remember about my time at Kent is the interaction I had with the people. I think the students, teachers and other members of staff have all been amazing. I will cherish my time at the Drill Hall Library, in The Deep End and the surrounding areas at Medway. My time at Kent has been amazing and I would encourage anyone to come here.

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