As a student of social work you are committed to improving the lives of other individuals and communities. This often involves interacting with people from cultures quite different than your own; and more often than not, it tackles issues such as poverty, human rights, and development. Of course, the United States is not the only country to face these issues and studying social work abroad may broaden your perspective and deepen your studies. People all over the world are suffering from social injustices, and every country approaches their problems with unique policies. Social work programs abroad may bring you a fresh perspective of how to approach things and a better knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
Just as important as understanding the issues, however, is understanding how to communicate with people from other backgrounds. What better way to practice cross-cultural communication than by studying social work abroad? By spending time in another country, you may meet people from all walks of life. If you seek out social work internships abroad or volunteer opportunities, you may also learn how to best help the locals in need. You may return home with great stories and examples to share with friends and potential employers alike. Hands on experience in a social work internship may also provide you with guidance for where you’d like to go in the future.
Social work programs abroad for graduates
Depending on your current education program, you may also want to consider alternatives for your international social work experience. For instance, you could finish your current program and pursue your MSW abroad. Social work graduate programs abroad may offer different completion schedules or costs than a domestic program would while also giving you the international experience you want. If you are interested in pursuing your social work career internationally, studying abroad makes perfect sense and may provide you with the network and contacts to pursue your goals.
International social work programs abroad
You’ll also want to give some thought to where you might be most interested in finding international social work programs. Are you interested in working with a Spanish speaking population after you graduate? You may want to consider social work programs in Spain or Latin America. Dying to explore the land of Lord of the Rings between classes, consider studying social work in New Zealand. Have a passion for Oktoberfest or high quality cars, look into social work study abroad programs in Germany. The list goes on but you get the point. Studying abroad is a unique opportunity to combine your academic and professional goals and personal interests and find a program that inspires you.
One of the other key benefits to studying abroad is obviously the potential for language acquisition. You may find that you want to enroll in an intensive language program in conjunction with your social work abroad program. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to work with French-speaking clients after you graduate, you don’t know when that skill may be handy in the future.
Types of social work programs abroad
As always when considering a study abroad program, you will want to think about the type of program you choose. Do you want to enroll directly with a foreign university or with a US-based study abroad program provider? Are you more comfortable studying social work with a class of peers from the US or are you seeking to be immersed in an unfamiliar setting? What are your schools policies on transferring credits back and how will you make sure the program furthers your academic goals at home? How long do you plan to go abroad for your social work program – a few weeks, the summer, a semester, a year? These are all relevant questions you will want to answer as you begin to explore options and determine which program will best fit your needs. Feel free to visit our Resources section if you need more help on exploring any of these questions.