Social Work majors are inevitably inquisitive, observant, perceptive, and reflective. This makes you the perfect candidate to study abroad, because you'll be eager to take in the new world around you and will find each new custom you're exposed to fascinating. Students majoring in social work can also gain valuable experience by studying abroad. The basic skills required of anyone working in the field are mirrored in the unique experience of studying abroad. You'll have the opportunity to observe a completely new culture and watch the intricacies of human interaction. As you meet new people and navigate complicated interactions you'll gain invaluable people skills. This precious window into another culture will give students insight into different perspectives, situations, and values of people all over the globe.
Being a stranger in a new place and relying on others helps students to be compassionate and empathetic. Learning a new language will help you to become a good listener. Finally, traveling the world will expose you to a range of people that will help you deal with folks from all walks of life. These are essential skills are anyone who is interested in working in social services.
Photo credits: Jirka Matousek.
As you can imagine, there are study abroad programs all of the world that highlight and compliment different aspect of social work. These are some of our top picks.
Public Health in Thailand
Thailand is fighting on the front lines, and winning! Famous for their innovative public health campaigns (search “Mr. Condom in Thailand.” No, really! Seriously! We’ll wait.) Thailand provides a fabulous environment for students interested in an intensive immersion experience. Combine that with the fabulous food, student life and vibrant Thai history and culture, and Thailand is an ideal destination for anyone interested in social service.
Development in Brazil
As a rapidly growing country with huge disparities between rich and poor, Brazil is a fascinating place to help burgeoning communities. Students can work in many roles supporting education, rebuilding neighborhoods and organizing social campaigns.
Education in South Africa
South Africa provides a singular opportunity for students to see first hand the complicated healing process in a troubled country. Because of the extensive work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as many grass roots organizations, South Africa is an incredible destination to see a nation rebuilding itself. Many programs offer chances to work in education and students can assist in the process of building a better tomorrow.
Planning Your Trip
Students interested in studying social work abroad will have a lot of options, and a lot of decisions! Courses relating to the fundamental aspects of this field are present in study abroad programs across the world. To choose a program, you'll have to consider your goals and what you would like to get out of the experience. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
The first major decision is what type of academic experience you're hoping to have. One choice is a more theoretical, classroom-based experience. This will be more similar to the classes you're used to taking at home. This is a great choice if you want to know what to expect and are willing to work hard - but also want to learn a lot! One great benefit of this program is that you'll be exposed to tons of important concepts from a totally different point of view, as you read textbooks created in another country and listen to professors who have worked in your host country's social work field. Another choice is a more hands-on program - this will certainly provide quite a different academic experience! You'll be working on a project in the field and will learn as you go.
This choice will be more of an adventure, as it's hard to predict exactly what you'll be doing going in, but it will certainly be eye-opening and valuable. Also, the experience will be great preparation for your career after graduation, and may even help you to narrow down your interests and figure out exactly what path you would like to pursue. Also, remember that many study abroad programs combine both of these options, which may provide you with the perfect balance.
This is a very important thing to consider as well. Many students heading abroad are really hoping to learn or practice a new language - this is a great goal and can certainly be combined with a social work program abroad! Working with people in the field is a great way to practice your conversation skills. If you're trying to choose a destination, review your future career goals and choose a language that will help you to communicate with future clients.
If you'd prefer to stick with English while abroad, this is totally possible, too! Consider heading to England, Australia, or another English-speaking country - you'll still be exposed to new culture and fun adventures but won't have to worry about the language barrier. Or, find an American University abroad. This way, all of your classes will be taught in English - taking some of the pressure off your coursework - but you'll still be able to pick up the basics of a new language when conversing with new friends and throughout the city.
There are tons of different housing options available, depending on what you're comfortable with. A homestay is a great option if you want to completely immerse yourself in the daily life of your host country. This is a great way to meet local people and really become a part of the community. Another option is living in a dormitory, which offers a more traditional college experience and will allow you to meet tons of other students, both international and native, which means lots of fun and enriching social opportunities.
Cost & Funding
Taking time off to go abroad can be financially challenging, but fear not, there are a multitude of scholarships that apply to both service-oriented programs and general study abroad. Be sure check if your school offers any scholarships as well!
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships
- AIFS Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships