Communities across the globe are more than just groups of people -- they are comprised of vibrant, different, dynamic individuals. When the fabric of these communities is strained, social workers help to mend and heal.
The value of the role of a social work intern cannot be overstated. While many communities and families seem to thrive, some are left behind by changing economic conditions, outdated social supports, and cultural or societal norms unique to a region.
Social work originated as crisis management and intervention for broken families. Today, social workers take on a variety of roles in community settings. These roles include being educators, healthcare workers, and even vocational skill trainers.
Social work takes a certain level of determination, mental grit, cultural adaptability, and a great deal of compassion. As such, social work interns should expect strenuous but gratifying opportunities in whichever role they choose.
Community Social Worker
Many would consider working with children and their families the primary role of a social worker. While this might have been true in defining the traditional role, the work of a social work intern now includes a wider range of settings. That said, working to strengthen and support communities at the family-level continues to play a significant part in the overall skill set developed by social work interns.
Health Care Social Worker
Social work in health care settings can pose unique challenges to those looking to intern in social work. Understanding the complex dynamics of patients and their families in times of ill-health is a position that is not to be taken lightly. Social work interns will need to be in-tune with their surroundings and show resilience as a social connector, negotiator, and emotional supporter.
Correctional Services Social Worker
Working in correctional services can offer social work interns a challenging but very rewarding opportunity to develop their skill set. There's much work to be done in correctional services and with the rehabilitation of troubled youth, offenders, and recently released inmates who are looking to positively reintegrate into their communities.
Social work interns work with community members to create and facilitate a number of useful learning opportunities and workshops for people living in poverty in vulnerable communities. Potential projects include offering legal aid, vocational training, peer support, and other beneficial sessions for communities in need.
Where to Go
If you’re interested in interning as a social worker, there are lots of opportunities around the globe where your skill set can be beneficial to the local communities. While many consider social workers to only be necessary for low or middle-income countries, you’ll find that there is a need for social workers in many developed countries, too.
While the United Kingdom is a world-leader in many sectors, there are large disparities between communities across the country. With many broken families and impoverished areas in most major centers, social workers are needed more than ever in the United Kingdom. Their role is often to improve the quality of life in smaller communities and to improve the lives of children in particular.
Like many countries located in Southeast Asia, Vietnam faces a number of unique challenges as it grows and adapts to an increasingly globalized world. While many of the urban centers continue to boom, high levels of poverty remain in the rural regions. These economic inequalities simultaneously strain communities and the families that comprise them. Social work interns will find a variety of work available in Vietnam, from health care to skills training in communities.
Known to be teeming with sunshine, culture, amazing food, and architecture, Spain might come as a surprise as a place to develop skills in social work. Social work interns can work with community advisors to offer services to both community members in urban settings and to new immigrants arriving in Spain from other parts of the world.
Tanzania is considered to be one of the more developed African nations, but it is not without its issues. Many rural communities face a brain-drain of skilled social workers whose job it is to be a connector, educator, and source of strength in the community. Social work interns can work with community stakeholders to strengthen and support communities in a variety of ways.
Planning Your Trip
Working as a social work intern is a rewarding but challenging line of work regardless of the setting you end up middle-income. Skills in social work can open doors to a multitude of other career paths that interns may not have considered.
How to Choose a Social Work Intern Program
There are a few important factors to consider before choosing which social work internship program you want to complete. One of the most important factors is thinking about the population you wish to work with. Working with children exclusively might take you to a different country than if you wanted to pursue social work with elderly populations and their families.
Another important factor to consider is if there is a specific country or community you wish to work in. Having an interest in a specific country, rather than an age group, can allow social work interns to examine the work to be done in the country as a whole, and choose which kind of program resonates with them the most.
Future social work interns should consider programs or organizations that emphasize teamwork, strong role clarification, and that show support for the mental health of for workers.
Finally, understanding the compensation structure, if any, should be an important factor when choosing a program or internship. Be sure to know before getting started whether your work is compensated or not, and if so, in what way you will receive compensation.
Health & Safety
While there are many physical factors to consider to stay healthy and safe while completing a social work internship, it is critical for potential interns to their mental and emotional health as well.
Often times, social work takes place in difficult community settings that are a result of a breakdown in social connections. While it is the intern's role to improve these conditions and mitigate their negative effects, this line of work can be demanding mentally and emotionally for frontline workers.
Other Need to Knows
Those who are considering completing a social work internship overseas should remember that they are there to supplement the work of the community that is already taking place. Future social work interns should also strive to identify and eliminate personal biases from their work. Strengthening communication skills through workshops or training sessions could be a consideration for interns wishing to brush up on their skills before embarking on their internship.