The Department of Community and Clinical Health’s Collaborative Online International Learning program is strengthening the cultural awareness of Social Work students.
Developed in partnership with Umeå University, Sweden, during COVID-19, the program enables students to have a virtual exchange experience.
“Small groups of students from La Trobe and Umea University meet online over a month,” explains Lecturer and Director of Field Education, Fiona Smith. “They are presented with a scenario and work together to identify key issues or concerns from a social work perspective.”
The scenarios provide students with the opportunity to consider their own culture and context, and reflect on how society influences social work practice.
“We ask how the social work practices are similar and different, the influence of our customs and cultures, and how this impacts their professional assessments,” explains Smith.
Between meetings, students further develop their theoretical knowledge. “When they come together, they cross-pollinate ideas and discuss their different approaches.”
The program helps to build a greater understanding of Australian and Swedish cultures, while also helping students to enhance their culturally sensitive practices.
“Social work practices are very similar in Scandinavia,” says Christin Johansson, International Coordinator at Umeå University, Sweden. “We value the cooperation between Australia and Sweden, so our students can improve insight into different theories and social work practice – and our students have recommended the program be included in every semester.”
La Trobe Bachelor of Human Services/Master of Social Work student, Chris Tito, enjoyed the program.
“I grew up in Australia, and it was interesting to learn about the different ways that Sweden manages its health and human services,” he explains. “We discussed ethics, law, theoretical underpinnings and case work, and the critically examined efficiencies and strengths of Swedish and Australian systems.”
“I became more familiar with collaborative social work practice while also learning interpersonal skills including virtual communication, working with time differences and facilitating groups. The experience has been invaluable in preparing me to become a culturally aware social worker.”
Find out more about studying Social Work.