Postgraduate student outside Bluecoat Gallery

Right place, right time

Charlotte Vanner tells us why postgraduate study was the right choice. 

Charlotte Vanner never planned to do a masters. Having graduated in Family and Childhood Studies from university in Wrexham she felt very much done with education.

“I graduated in 2014 and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next so I took a year out,” Charlotte explains. “I moved up to Liverpool with my partner, worked in retail for a while, went travelling over the summer and then got a job in a secondary school as a special needs teaching assistant.”

By the end of her degree, Charlotte had started to identify social work as an area she would like to move into. “It was very much a pipe dream when I graduated. I had done my dissertation on safeguarding and child protection and it seemed like an area I could make a difference in,” she says. “My time out had given me the opportunity to mature and get some life experience and so I started to think about it more seriously.”

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Visiting an LJMU Postgraduate Open Day with her partner who was joining the University to study for a masters in Journalism, Charlotte met Social Work Programme Leader Malcolm Kinney. “Something just clicked that day,” smiles Charlotte. “Malcolm was inspiring. He made the course sound so interesting. I knew I had to apply.”

Charlotte’s visit to LJMU also enabled her to see the University’s facilities first hand. “I was blown away, the facilities were incredible and I realised I could be really happy here,” she says. “When I came for my interview I met more of the staff and really liked them. Having experienced LJMU I didn’t even attend the interviews I had lined up elsewhere.”

Now well into her studies, Charlotte is still every bit as happy with her choice of programme and institution. “I love everything about it from the wide range of people on the course to the respect that everyone has for each other,” she enthuses. “I’ve been fascinated by the lectures and I’ve learned so much about the political context of the world today. I’ve become far more socially aware and I’ve started to question things more.”

Charlotte’s time on the course has also led her to re-evaluate her core interests. “From the first time I spoke to Malcolm I was fascinated by his interest in mental health and, as time has gone by, I have realised that this is an area I want to work in,” she says. “My first course placement is with Mencap, working with adults with learning disabilities and I will be basing my dissertation on this. It has been a privilege to meet service users, as well as providers, and hear their side of the story and what they need from us.”

In terms of postgraduate study, Charlotte admits it can be a stretch. “You have to study a subject you are passionate about,” she says. “I do this because I want to. I’m not being made to do it. There’s an awful lot of reading involved, you have to work independently and use your own initiative but life’s too short to be stuck in a job you don’t love and I’ve really found my passion at LJMU.”

Read more stories like this in MasterPlan – the LJMU magazine for postgraduate students.