Stepping into the world of social work

Aspiring students learned about NUS Social Work’s degree programmes, student life and the profession through events such as a community walk and a mini-carnival

What does NUS Social Work offer and what is it like as a student in the programme? Curious pre-university students and undergraduates from other disciplines had these questions answered during a series of events organised by the Department in March to raise awareness on its degree programmes, student life and the social work profession.

The events, which included a community walk and a mini-carnival, were conducted in collaboration with the Department’s alumni who have since gone on to embark on diverse and successful careers in the community and business sectors.

Gleaning deep insights at Chin Swee Road and Jalan Kukoh

Students had the chance to learn about the challenges and experiences faced by both social workers and the less fortunate through a community walk around the Chin Swee Road and Jalan Kukoh area – one of Singapore’s largest and oldest rental estates. Held on 13 March, it was organised in partnership with community initiative Kampung Kakis and social enterprise Hello Flowers.

While walking the grounds, they also participated in various simulation exercises to better understand the lived experiences of residents there. One multi-sensorial exercise invited participants to reflect on life in the estate by listening to the sounds of construction work nearby, paying attention to the scents and smells of the neighbourhood, and observing how residents use the corridors outside their flats as part of their living spaces.

In another exercise, participants were asked to imagine themselves as a single mother and then strategise how they would buy lunch and dinner for themselves and their child, along with female hygiene essentials, with only $10. Participants had to decide which purchases they would prioritise as they explored the neighbourhood’s amenities, such as a hawker centre and a Value Dollar shop. In the process, they caught a glimpse of the stressors and complex challenges many low-income families living in these estates face daily.

One participant, Guok Wei Chee, said the activity enabled him to observe how life outcomes and access to opportunities were strongly intertwined. He added, “I realised that we are all people [living] within a system. Oftentimes our access to opportunities and privileges can shape our successes and downfalls.”

Another participant, Magdalene Ng, shared that she learnt how infrastructure and access to amenities can affect the way people live their lives. She added, “I am now more aware of what the residents in Chin Swee and Jalan Kukoh face.”

Celebrating the social work profession

The mini carnival held on World Social Work Day on 21 March in collaboration with the NUS Society of Social Work Students (SSWS) saw 200 student-visitors engaging in fun, experiential learning activities with NUS social work students. Through games and ‘Ask Me Anything’ booths, they found out more about the social work curriculum, profession and life as a social work student. A draw for many visitors was the reframing board-exercise where participants were invited to think about the negative thoughts they have experienced and to adopt a strengths-based perspective. This is an approach in which social workers guide individual service users to focus on their abilities, talents, resources or even aspirations rather than their problems and deficits.

Candle making and a mixology workshop were among the other activities at the carnival. During the candle-making workshop organised with Fabervine – a business run by a former social worker cum NUS social work alumna – participants were invited to use the candle-making process to reflect on the values important to them in their future careers. They were asked to choose three different essential oil scents along with three values that would represent the top, middle, and base notes of the candle, and given time to reflect on their chosen values.

The mixology workshop featured Mr Jing Zu, a professional bartender who benefitted from a youth leadership programme in his younger days. As he taught participants how to create different mocktails and explained the equipment needed, he shared about his personal struggles as a child growing up as a latch-key kid and how receiving help from social workers left him with a positive impact. He gained many valuable lessons when his social workers provided him with various opportunities to take charge of the welfare of his peers in youth leadership camps he participated in. The trust they placed in him helped develop his self-belief, giving him the confidence to better resolve problems in the future.

One student who took part in the candle-making workshop expressed how she gained better insight into what social work is about and the values she can take with her when she embarks on her future career in the workplace.

“It was fulfilling to see non-Social Work majors participating in the carnival and learning more about (the field). I also felt a strong sense of community among Social Work students as many of them volunteered to help in the running of the carnival to make the event a success,” said NUS Social Work Year 2 student Isabel Lui from the SSWS executive committee which co-organised the carnival.

If you are interested in the social work profession, visit the NUS Social Work website to learn more about our degree programmes.

By NUS Social Work