Uisce came to Liverpool Hope with clear ideas about her future direction. “I had always known that I wanted to work with people,” she said. “In particular, I was – and still very much am – passionate about supporting those who are marginalised in our society. It sounds like a cliché to say ‘I want to make a difference’, but that pretty much sums it up.”
So it’s clear why she chose to study social work, but why did she feel that Liverpool Hope was the right university for her? “Hope’s approach is unique. There's a sharp focus on anti-oppressive working and empowerment, putting people at the centre of everything. Also, the opportunities for field study looked particularly exciting.”
Moving from rural Northern Ireland to Liverpool, Uisce told us how she took to city life. “It was a bit daunting at first but I soon grew to love it. Liverpool itself is a brilliant city for students and there’s always something going on. Hope itself feels like a close-knit and safe community in the heart of the city. So you’ve got the best of both worlds really.
“Academic life also has that close-knit community feel to it. The class sizes are fairly small, so there’s the chance to get to know tutors and other students properly. It’s an ‘open door’ kind of place, which means that if you need any help or guidance, it’s always there.”
Uisce mentioned the opportunities for field study earlier, and we asked her to talk a little more about those. “My first placement was with an community welfare organisation in India, where I worked to support trafficked women and the transgender community. Then, back in Liverpool, I worked with a charity called Person Shaped Support, which has close links with Hope.
“During my third year I spent 100 days with Merseyside Refugee & Asylum Seekers Pre & Post Natal Support, working with victims of sexual violence, trafficking, domestic slavery and human rights abuses. As well as providing information and advice for women and their children, we offered a safe space where they can access peer support and develop social contacts.”
On top of that, Uisce joined other members of Hope’s Social Work, Care and Justice Society as they delivered a container for refugees in Greece - and brought valuable supplies to those living in the Jungle in Calais.
She also took part in a field trip to Palestine where she stayed in refugee camps and contributed to the work of community groups. “We had raised money back at Hope,” she said. “So it was good to see how that was helping, and to experience what life is like under military occupation.”
When we asked Uisce so sum up her experience at Hope, she paused. “It’s impossible to do that in a few words,” she said. “I experienced and learned so much. It changed my life for ever – and it has empowered me to change other people’s lives too.”
After finishing her studies, Uisce worked with Liverpool Hope as a Graduate Advocate, visiting schools and taking part in outreach activities to make young people aware of the opportunities that university life can offer. When we spoke to her, she had just been offered a place on a PhD programme beginning next September.
So will she take advantage of these next few weeks for a chance to relax and rewind before starting her studies again? Not a chance. “I’m off to Liberia next month with Y Care international, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that supports vulnerable young people to free themselves from poverty. I’ll be working on a project around young people’s sexual health, helping to build their confidence and create brighter futures for themselves in their communities.”