Michelle Lillywhite has recently completed the BA (Hons) Social Work course, which she came to as a mature student. One of the most memorable parts of her degree was going to Colombia for a month to work with an organisation that supports children in vulnerable communities.
“I feel blessed to have gone out there and met such amazing people who are doing a difficult job in the face of such a challenging cultural history. It’s a wonderful country. My time in Colombia showed me how amazing the force of the human spirit can be, but also how a community can be divided without realising it,” she tells us.
The charity Michelle worked with is called FAN, an organisation that provides day care and outreach support to parents, helping over 300 children through its nursery in the city of Medellin.
“We had the opportunity to meet with parents who are being supported by the projects, as well as social workers, psychologists and other specialist staff,” Michelle explains.
“By spending time with and talking to everyone out there, we gained a new perspective on certain aspects of social work. We were then able to bring this knowledge and insight back to the classroom to many of our debates around ethics and values,” she adds.
Travelling to Colombia was an unexpected opportunity for Michelle, thanks to the new connections BU has made with the Universidad EAFIT in Medellin. When she heard about the project, she jumped at the chance to go. “I would never have done this kind of trip without the university’s involvement,” she explains.
“I always thought it would be too expensive to fund something like this out of my own pocket, but I received support from the BU Global Horizons Fund, which was brilliant and ultimately what allowed me to go.”
Michelle would urge anyone who has the opportunity to go on an overseas trip during their time at university. “Having worked for 20 years before coming to study, I know how hard it is to take a month off and have this kind of experience.
“I love the fact that BU actually encourage people to have an overseas experience and that they help you pay for it. A trip like this can be life changing.”
She has one final piece of advice for anyone hoping to go abroad during their degree: “Remember that this kind of trip doesn’t have to be all about your course, make it personal too. Just think about the kind of insight this is going to give you throughout your career and as a person.”