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Social work student thriving in second year despite challenges from COVID-19 and personal tragedy in Cyclone Gabrielle

June 14, 2023

Larissa is enjoying studying her second year of the Bachelor of Social Work at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

Larissa Hill knew she wanted to be a social worker when she began her first year of a Bachelor of Social Work  at EIT | Te Pūkenga last year, but she has since faced challenges including COVID-19 and a personal tragedy in Cyclone Gabrielle.

Now in her second year, Larissa, 19, is loving her chosen career and is focused on getting through a year that has also been disrupted by not being on the Hawke’s Bay Campus, which was devasted by the Cyclone.

“This year was meant to be all on campus at EIT and all back to normal because COVID had kind of drifted away, but now we’re sort of at a dead end again because of the Cyclone. I live in Taradale, so obviously we were a little bit worried that we were going to have to evacuate, but we were fine. But a close friend of mine passed away, so I was affected in that way.”

Despite the hardship, Larissa has thrown herself into the second year. The former Taradale High School student had entered the programme on a Year 13 Scholarship offered by EIT

 “The programme is really good. I love the tutors and I love the way that the programme is set out. You realise that every little sociological concept you learn in theory is going to be really effective in practice.”

Despite not being on the campus in Taradale, Larissa and her cohort are still having face-to-face learning in what has become known as the extended campus of EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“We did only about two weeks online, but the BSW team got together rooms quite fast. So for the year 2s in particular, we’ve been at Birthright in Napier. They’ve got a conference room there that we’ve been using, so that’s been really awesome. And we’ve headed to the EIT | Te Pūkenga campuses at Maraenui and Hastings for a few classes. So that’s been good.“

One thing she has missed last year and this year is the annual noho on the marae at EIT | Te Pūkenga in Hawke’s Bay

It was cancelled last year because of COVID-19 and then this year because of the cyclone.

“The first year we were meant to have a noho, which is an overnight stay at the marae, but that obviously got cancelled due to COVID-19. So they did a little wananga for us, which is just the same thing, but you go home overnight pretty much. That was probably the best part because it was two full days at EIT, doing presentations, and eating food, and spending time with all the tutors and my classmates. So that was probably my favourite part.”

While she still has a way to go to complete her degree, Larissa knows what type of social work she wants to practise.

“The more I learn about youth justice the more I get intrigued. So for now, that still sounds like a pretty good idea, but like I say, I’ve still got another two and a half years, with honours, to make that decision. But yeah, it’s looking pretty good for placement anyway. Going to do something that works in youth justice and with children.”

Charlotte Chisnell, Principal Academic Staff Member and programme co-ordinator for the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at EIT | Te Pūkenga, says: “Larissa is one of our year 13 scholarship students. She is a great student and always contributes positively within classes. She adapts well to any  challenges and maintains a very positive and strength based attitude.”

“She will be a great asset to the social work profession.”