“From my experience, I think I really made the right choice to transfer my degree to Flinders,” she says.
“I am so pleased with my student experience at Flinders, and I still got the chance to work with children, even though I’m now not going down an education career pathway.”
Wenyue has been able to complete two substantial placements—one per year of 500 hours each, conducted over three to four months. Her first was at a primary school, following a semester learning about children and families and interventions for young people.
Wenyue helped support children learning in class, including reading stories to younger students and helping with mathematics questions, while also observing emotional changes and supporting students to regulate their emotions.
“If they were in distress, we would walk them to the Wellbeing Hub and then help get them ready to return to class.”
Her second placement this year is with Uniting Care Wesley Bowden (UCWB), in the Child, Family & Specialist Services, which helps families with children strengthen their relationships, and increase their resiliency, coping skills and ability to support their children, including through issues such as financial difficulties, housing and unemployment.
Wenyue’s placement activities range from administrative tasks and creating communication materials, to home visits and running programs.
“Because I’m still in the first part of my placement, I haven’t yet done home visits, but those will involve observing living situations, having conversations with clients and assessing what kind of support they need—practical assistance, parenting support, child and family's wellbeing support, and so on—and then follow-ups based on that.
“So, I still feel like I’m working in the field I’ve been dreaming to work in.”
Wenyue says she really appreciates how the staff of Uniting Care have welcomed her.
“I really feel included, even being from a different cultural background. And they are very open to having social work students. They are always ready to answer our questions.”
Wenyue grew up in Guangzhou, in southern China, and chose to pursue her studies in Australia on the very positive feedback of family friends already based here.
But like most students across Australia, her study experience has been deeply impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With face-to-face lectures moving online throughout 2020 and into 2021, Wenyue says she felt very isolated, and even more so because she was prevented from returning home to her family.
“I was planning to go back to China in 2020 for Chinese New Year, which is a big celebration for Chinese, but I couldn’t. And in 2021, even though [COVID] is mostly under control in both Australia and my country, I still couldn’t go because of the travel policy. It has been so hard.”
It was made harder still by her grandmother being unwell.
“I have a very close connection with my grandma, and I just want to talk to her as much as I can, but I have long hours for my placement and she sleeps for long hours every day, and with the time difference, we just can’t connect up with each other.”
As an international student, Wenyue was not eligible for the Centrelink support provided by the Australian government to students as an emergency measure, and has also struggled to secure part-time work to support herself.
"I applied for jobs as an individual support worker, but then couldn’t do this because of concern about client wellbeing [during the pandemic]. This really reduced the job opportunities. Most of the available roles also required the employee to have a full driver’s licence, which I don’t have.”
Receiving the $2000 Matthew Flinders Scholarship, supported by alumni, staff and friends, was therefore a welcome financial aid.
“It was a very big relief to receive it and I was very grateful. It’s at least two months’ rental payment in Adelaide.”
Wenyue thinks the international students who commenced their studies a semester behind her suffered even more.
“They were on campus for only one week before the University announced it had to shut down, so they couldn’t make friends in person, and then they lost contact with everyone.”
Wenyue says this made it particularly challenging for international students seeking assistance with their studies.
“For international students, and especially Chinese students, we were taught in a different way to Australian students, more like memorising for exams. So, when we start to write a paper, we don’t know how to do this, and it is hard to get support online. You need to wait for the email back from your tutor, which takes time.”
“The teaching staff were suffering from the pandemic lockdown as well—we need to put ourselves in the teaching staff’s shoes.”
As a social work student working with children and families, Wenyue has also been acutely aware of the impacts of COVID on mental health and rising domestic violence.
“It also had a very big impact on people’s ability to seek help in those situations and to access outreach services,” she says.
Wenyue is now keen to continue pursuing a career in social work, focusing on children and family, and particularly with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families, where she feels there is still a need to develop more comprehensive support.
“I just really enjoy working with young people.”
You can support more students like Wenyue who are struggling with financial challenges by supporting the Matthew Flinders Scholarship Fund. Donate today