Postgraduate Social Work the right step forward for interpreter

Posted by Virginia on 13 February 2017

When Frankie Yue Zheng (pictured front row, centre, at Uniting Harris Community Centre) decided to advance her career prospects with a higher education, becoming a social worker appealed for its natural transition from her job at the time.

“As a professional translator and interpreter, I see my work not only relying on language skills, but more importantly on human rights and social work values, to support vulnerable individuals and families from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities to access services and support,” said Frankie.

Frankie was eligible to apply for the Australian College of Applied Psychology’s (ACAP) Master of Social Work (Qualifying) thanks to her Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting. She enrolled at the Sydney campus as an international student and graduated in 2016.

“I consider my undergraduate degree to be highly relevant to the social work profession in multicultural societies like Australia,” she said.

Frankie found ACAP through its listing on the Jiaoyu Shewai Jianguan Xinxi Wang (JSJ) 'Study Abroad' website, which guides Chinese students to overseas institutions matching their field of interest.

“ACAP was able to provide a course to fit my criteria – qualifying, postgraduate, less than two years in duration, and open to international students,” said Frankie.

“It was also very flexible in admission. Although I come from a non-social science background and may not have completed social science units, I was able to gain an offer from ACAP through a statement of my values, passion and experience working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) individuals in the community. ACAP is also conveniently located in the city.”

Placement benefits work prospects

A temporary paid job has resulted from the second of Frankie’s two placements. Maintaining the connection from her internship, in November 2016 she started working in a six-month part-time paid role at the City of Sydney, in its International Student Leadership and Ambassador (ISLA) program.

“My role is Community Programs Support Officer and my main duties include assisting with implementation and evaluation of the City’s International Student Leadership and Ambassador program and on City-wide community events including the Living in Harmony Festival and Youth Week in the City. I work closely with community stakeholders to ensure processes and outputs respond to community needs and best practice,” Frankie said.

Frankie had been at placement with the City of Sydney, in its Social Policy and Programs team, under its City Life Division.

“My main role [at placement] was assisting with the project management of the City’s ISLA program, which provides training, mentoring and practical experience to leaders in the international student community,” she said.

“This project resonated strongly with my experience as an international student in Sydney and as one of two ACAP international student delegates to the Council of International Student’s 2016 National Conference.”

Insight from the field

Master of Social Work (Qualifying) students complete 1,000 hours of field education during the latter stage of the course. Frankie’s first placement had been at the Uniting Harris Community Centre, a not-for-profit community support agency in Sydney’s inner city. Here she had the chance to use her linguistic skills while rounding out her social work experience with face-to-face client contact.

“I was mainly responsible for assisting and supporting local groups and individuals through developing and implementing cultural, educational, recreational and social projects and events which aim to build community relationships while addressing community needs and issues,” she said.

“Most of the work involved running a one-on-one technology tutorial with people with a disability and seniors, organising multicultural events and activities, helping Mandarin-speaking service users to access information and support , and distributing material aid resources to homeless and low-income individuals and families in the neighbourhood. The experience helped me identify my strengths in community project and event management, and more importantly areas for improvement.”

Frankie describes her placements as “the most important component" of her course. As well as securing paid work at City of Sydney, she was approached about taking on contract work at Uniting Harris Community Centre in the future, as opportunities arise.

Study with a community culture

Frankie has fond memories of the close connections between faculty members and students at ACAP, made possible by the college’s advantages in scale and its focus on courses related to allied health.

“ACAP has a lot to offer and it could expose you to many opportunities if you are proactive,” she said.

“I cannot imagine being in any prestige university where professors and heads of the schools would be so accessible; who would have the time to answer your questions and constantly check on your learning progress. These benefits have had an extremely positive effect on my confidence and academic performance.”

Frankie gained more than academic qualifications from her time at ACAP. The camaraderie of collaborative learning with her School of Social Work cohort created a network of support to draw on, and to celebrate with, as her new career begins. 

“ACAP not only taught me how to learn to work with others and to work with differences, but also provided a vital platform for international students like me to connect with local students outside of the classroom and to learn various interpersonal and communication skills that are not in the textbooks," she said.

“Now when I think back, I recall the wonderful times where study groups gathered at libraries for discussion and went out for coffee or dinner afterwards, and the lifelong friendships that grew from such times,” said Frankie.

Frankie was interviewed in February 2017.