Circle has a proud tradition of welcoming Social Work students from all over Scotland and providing them with frontline experience in order for them to qualify and be ready for the professional challenges that they will face in the future.

Two new students joined Circle recently and we thought we’d ask them a few hard-hitting, and some not so hard-hitting, questions in order for us all to get to know them better… and of course learn from the experiences they are gaining both academically and through supporting families directly.


Hi and welcome to Circle, I hope you are settling in well? Thanks for agreeing to chat to us, could you just take a second to introduce yourselves?



Hi! My name is Elspeth, I’m currently on placement with Circle as a Student Social Worker – the first of two placements I’ll do while I’m studying for an MSc in Social Work Studies at the University of Stirling.






Hello! My name is Zainab, I’m 28 and am a student social worker studying Master of Social Work degree at Edinburgh Napier. I’ll be working in Circle’s Harbour project until the start of December.  



Before we start the serious questions I wonder if you could answer a little ice-breaker for us, if you could be any animal, what would you be, and why?

Ugh, these questions always make me cringe a bit – I’m going to go with my standard “getting to know you game” answer. An earthworm! They might not be very glamorous, but they do pretty spectacular work…there’s definitely a very unflattering comparison in there!!

I would probably be a cat – I would love laying around in the sun and relaxing! 


That’s a great mix of animals to join our growing Circle zoo! Cats definitely live a quality life whereas I don’t think I have ever heard an earthworm described as glamorous before!

Other than living the good life, what are you passionate about?

My last job before starting my studies was with Clydesdale Community Initiatives, a social enterprise based in Lanark. I got to do a lot of gardening and horticulture activities there, and I’ve found myself seeking out the therapy that gardening brings in my downtime from placement – I went completely overboard planting seeds though, it’s become another full-time job! I also have a dog called Murtagh (yes, after the “Outlander” character) and love to go exploring with him and my partner in our partly-converted campervan.

Spending time with my friends, play board-games, knitting and I’m a bit of an avid collector of plants.  


Both of you have green-fingers eh? Perhaps we should be setting up a Circle gardening group…

Now that our supporters know you a little better I wonder if you could tell us what inspired you to study for a qualification in Social Work?

I love working with people, building relationships and supporting them through good times and bad.

Social work was something I’d thought about studying for a while, and although I know it will have its challenges, the values, ethics and diversity of the profession appealed to me – enough to draw me into another two and a half years of study!

I’ve always wanted to work in a role that helps people, especially those who face social inequalities. My undergraduate degree was in psychology and sociology and social work seemed like the obvious next step for me to reach my goal.

I’ve done a fair bit of volunteering working with older people who are in the process of being diagnosed with dementia, and it really made me realise the importance of promoting and advocating for people’s welfare, especially those who struggle to do so by themselves.  


And how long have you been on placement at Circle? 

I’m one month into a three month placement.

This is week 6 for me! 


As you’ve had a little time with us know… What do you think the biggest difference is between studying and practicing Social Work? Are you learning or experiencing anything at Circle that you weren’t expecting?

My placement still feels quite new and I’ve yet to meet any of the families I’ll be working with, but certainly starting to prepare for this has given me the chance to begin applying the knowledge and theory from my course, which has been good.

I’d say the biggest difference is translating theories and knowledge into practical work and seeing how it impacts on families in real life. I also feel that when you start working with people, you really get to know yourself in a way as well.  


What type of work have you / will you been doing at Circle? What kind of challenges have you been supporting people with?

I’m based with Circle’s East Lothian team, supporting families with substance use issues. It’s not an area I’ve got much experience of, but the team have been great – on day one, I was taking part in Trauma Informed Practice training, and I’ve been given lots of brilliant tips for reading and research to get me prepared.

Circle have been incredibly supportive, and I feel so lucky to have the wealth of knowledge and experience of the team around me!

I’m placed in the team that works with families affected by parental substance use, and I also work with a couple of young people to support their mental health needs. I have only just started to meet with my families, but I’m manged to do a couple of joint visits and some introductory meeting, so I’m really at the first stage of getting to know my families.   


For anyone reading this that is considering studying for a qualification in Social Work what would your top three tips be?

  1. Listen, and keep an open mind. 
  2. ALWAYS take notes – you never know when someone is going to give you a great tip, or mention something you need to read up on.  
  3. Enjoy the experience – I was really wary of studying after working full time for years. I wasn’t sure I would adapt, but it’s been so refreshing to learn something new, and to meet some fantastic people along the way. Soak it all up, because it really does fly by!


  1. Do your research- make sure you understand what being a social worker means and if it’s something for you  
  2. Look after yourself and your mental health- it can be very stressful and I’ve found it really important to take the time for myself to do things that I enjoy 
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially during placement- this is your time to learn in the field so to speak, so really make the most of it  


Some great advice there, thank you.

When do you finish your studying and what is your plan for when you do? What type of job would you like to get? Why?

I should graduate in Spring 2023. I’m quite open to what I do after that – I’m interested to see how things operate in statutory social work, but I do enjoy the capacity to build relationships with people that I think characterises third sector work.

I’m really open to doing anything really- I’m one of those people who want to try everything. My previous placement was working with adults, so I’m pleased to be gaining experience in a children’s and families setting. I’m interested in working in mental health, but as long as I can work with people and support their needs, I’d be quite happy.  


And finally, with the experience you have so far, what one change would you make to the world around us that would make the biggest positive difference to the families you support, and why?

I think for people to show more kindness, acceptance and generosity of approach – there’s so much stigma for people accessing support.  

I’d like it if people would be more compassionate and understanding of each other and where they are coming from. To recognise that although someone is different from you and comes from a different background/area/class/gender etc. they are also deserving of the same opportunities and treatment.  


Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce yourself and the work you are doing. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time with Circle.

And if any of our supporters have questions about our Learning and Development project then please get in touch with the project manager Fiona Burness – Fiona.Burness@Circle.Scot