BOWIE STATE UNIVERSITY
Department of Social Work
Global Learning Visits Program
The Global Learning Visits Program in the Department of Social Work at Bowie State University works toward being the model for providing international learning experiences in undergraduate social work education.
The mission of the Global Learning Visits Program is to promote lifelong learning for undergraduate social work students through international travel and virtual connections.
The goals of the Global Learning Visits Program are to:
- Cultivate intercultural competencies
- Generate new knowledge about global issues
- Expand perception of social work practice and policy
Upon completion of a global learning visit or virtual connection, students are expected to:
- Understand alternative approaches to social work globally
- Interpret aspects of other cultures and countries with greater accuracy
- Acquire a heightened sense of global interconnections and interdependencies
Global Learning Visits Program
In February 2013, after faculty traveled abroad to attend a conference, three students approached the department Chair with the idea of providing study abroad opportunities for students. After consulting with faculty and administration, we learned that developing a study abroad program would take several years to create. Therefore, faculty began exploring shorter opportunities for students – global learning visits. After consulting with colleagues from various organizations and universities, in April 2014, the Global Learning Visits Program was launched. Our first sponsored learning visit was to Havana, Cuba, and the three students who approached the Chair in 2013 with this idea were a part of the inaugural trip. Since that time, we have expanded our program to also include learning visits Germany, Japan, and South Africa. Other countries are constantly being explored and added in order to expand the program.
The Department of Social Work’s Global Learning Visits Program supports cultural awareness, appreciation for diversity, and the globalization of ideas among students and faculty. Our learning visits range from one to three weeks in duration, and at least one chaperone accompanies students on each visit.
Students are afforded opportunities to explore social service agencies, human rights projects, schools and universities, and health and mental health care facilities to learn ways in which each country approaches these concerns. They attend lectures on the geopolitical issues that influence the human condition in the country they are visiting, and are able to learn about the nuances of the local culture. Students also volunteer in the country they are visiting to increase social responsibility.
In November, 2015 faculty attended a seminar on International Education sponsored by the US Department of Education. One of the presentations was titled, “Virtual Exchange: International Education for All.” Inspired by the presentation, and understanding that each student may not travel abroad, we explored the virtual exchange program through Soliya called the Connect Program. Soliya is an international NGO that uses technology to connect students from around the world. The Connect Program provides students with opportunities to engage one another through virtual exchanges. In February 2016, our program partnered with Soliya to provide virtual exchange learning opportunities for our students. Four of our students became members of our inaugural group. Through Virtual Connection, students interact weekly (for eight weeks) with students from various universities around the world to address a range of topics in a structured environment.