Students from the University of North Dakota (UND) learned the value of international experience during a recent two-week field-trip to Sweden which combined lectures and fieldwork.
Professors and students from Austria, England, Germany, Scotland and Sweden came together for the trip to learn from each other and share ideas.
“Thinking globally and acting locally is key to being a successful social worker,” Murat Ndikum, a UND social work senior who went on the trip, told UND Today.
“Social work is all about helping,” said Ndikum. “We came from different areas of the world and spoke different languages, but we shared the same classroom and experiences. We used our different cultural backgrounds and perspectives to find solutions to common social problems through policymaking.”
— Roberta Beauchamp (@rcbeauchamp) March 10, 2018
Through the international experience, students had the opportunity to share ideas with different nationalities and see a welfare system very different from the US model.
When not in lectures, students went on field trips to an elderly care facility, an Alzheimer’s unit, Save the Children, and the Rosengard neighborhood in Malmo – the home to immigrants from Syria, Africa and other nations.
“It was eye-opening. We saw how [social work] functions under different governments and structures, and learned they still face a lot of the same challenges – budget cuts, understaffing, high caseloads – that we do in the United States,” said Erika Brorby, a Master’s of social work student.
Experiencing Sweden’s alternative social policy model proved valuable for students to see the challenges other governments face.
Unlike the US, Sweden has high wages and high welfare provision, explained Ndikum. Visiting the country allowed students to understand a different attitude towards social issues that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen back home.
Bret Weber, associate professor of social work at the UND said:
“Whether it’s Sweden, Germany or Scotland, all countries are dealing with large immigrant groups, aging populations, and opioid crisis.”
“We shared our understanding of these problems and learned different approaches from one another.”
Students also developed their international collaboration skills by working with their peers from different countries. Through this, they were able to develop problem-solving skills through different perspectives to their own, explained Weber.
“They each felt they had nothing in common, but the next day we blended students from different countries and gave them case studies. For example, they had to problem-solve with persons with disabilities or addiction issues.
“Despite the differences they had felt the day before, they found shared values and methods, and solved problems in similar ways,” he said.