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International Social Work Program

The Faculty of Social Work's International Social Work Diploma program (ISWD) provides you with an opportunity to advance your knowledge and theory of social work practice in countries with social, economic and political contexts that are significantly different than Canada, while encouraging the sharing of ideas among social work students, schools and practitioners around the world. The ISWD fosters your understanding of global interdependence, the universality of social problems, and the need to develop responses grounded in the local community.

The ISWD includes course requirements as well as an advanced placement in an international setting. The placement component of ISWD is not available as a foundational placement.

Eligibility

Master of Social Work (MSW) students can apply to the ISWD when they have successfully completed their first foundational placement. Successful completion of all first-year courses and ISWD courses are requirements of the diploma.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Enrolled in one of the following on-campus programs:
    • Two-year, full-time MSW program.
    • Three-year, part-time MSW program.
  • Satisfactory performance in the foundational field course.
  • Good academic performance in the MSW program to date.

Student participation in ISWD varies. On average, six to eight students participate in the program each year.

Program Sequence

The ISWD combines courses with an international advanced placement. Students interested in the diploma apply during the first term of their MSW program. A total of four courses are required for successful completion of the program. The international placement is in lieu of a student's second advanced placement, and takes place between mid- August and mid-December. 

Required Courses

  • SK592: Transnational Social Work Practice
  • SK596: International Social Work Research (to replace SK615: Research 2 intensive in June)
  • SK630: International Placement Orientation: Introduction to Culture, History and Traditions of your Host Country
  • SK622: Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context
  • SK650: Advanced Field Education (five-day block placement in an international setting)
  • SK597: International Social Work Research Paper

These courses are a part of the core and elective courses of the MSW program for students who intend to complete the program and participate in an international placement. Students who do not wish to participate in the ISWD or an international placement may enrol in SK596 (Research in International Social Work) and SK592 (Transnational Social Work practice), which are open to all students. The remaining courses are only open to students approved for participation in the ISWD.

Course Exemptions

Students participating in ISWD are exempt from a few courses listed in the appropriate course sequence.

ISWD students are exempt from courses that are tailored to the learning needs of students completing a local advanced placement. In lieu of these exemptions, ISWD students complete the courses outlined above. For example, all students completing a local advanced placement in micro social work practice are required to enrol in SK621 (Reflexive Practices). A student participating in ISWD is exempted from SK621 and is instead required to enrol in SK622 (Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context).

International Placements

The Faculty of Social Work collaborates with international non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations and academic institutions that meet the requirements for providing a MSW level placement opportunity. Placement availability varies from year to year, and depends on various factors, including the political context of the country and staffing changes. MSW students apply for field placement opportunities with international agencies that the Faculty of Social Work has an established relationship with. Detailed information about available placements are shared with students every fall term during the orientation sessions.

The Faculty of Social Work supports placements with host agencies in China, Tanzania, Peru and Uganda. Past placements were provided in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, India and the Philippines. Students seeking new placements may be encouraged to present their proposed placement to the coordinator during the first term of their program. Students are expected to review Canadian travel advisories for information about any risk or safety issues about the country prior to proposing a placement. Placements are not offered in countries and/or regions that are deemed high risk by the Department of International Trade and Foreign Affairs.

Application and Assessment of Applicants

Students interested in participating in the ISWD must complete a two-step application process that includes a written application and an interview. Applicants must submit the completed International Social Work Program Application no later than the due date. Students are then invited for an interview with a committee from the field office. Interviews are required for all applicants. Students will be selected for ISWD on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Evaluated through the Faculty of Social Work's academic records:
    • Satisfactory performance in the foundational placement to date.
    • Good academic performance in the MSW program to date.
  • Evaluated through the application form and interview:
    • Suitability of learning goals to international social work.
    • Suitability of personal and professional motivations for pursuing international placement.
    • Critical self-reflection on personal suitability for an international placement.
    • Understanding of international context (e.g. awareness of cross-cultural dynamics, issues of cultural adaptation, the role of social work, etc.).
    • Evidence of independence, flexibility and adaptability.
    • Specific skills, experiences or competencies of relevance to the particular placement requested or to international placements in general.
    • Suitability as ‘ambassador’ for the Faculty of Social Work.

Planning for the International Placement

Pre-departure

Fall term

  • Attend information sessions during the first fall term of the MSW program.
  • Meet with field education coordinator.
  • Propose a placement by the deadline provided.
  • Submit the ISWD application no later than the due date.
  • Prepare for and attend interviews during November facilitated by the field education office.
  • Successful applicants notified by the end of the term.
  • Register for ISWD courses for the upcoming terms.

Winter term

  • Begin SKSK592: Transnational Social Work Practice
  • Attend the colloquium presented by students returning from an international placement.
  • Identify international placements of interest.
  • Connect and interview with international agencies to finalize placements.
  • Prepare for logistics required.

Spring term

  • Begin and complete SK596: International Social Work Research.
  • BeginSK630: International Placement Orientation.
  • Begin SK622: Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context.
  • Acquire proper travel documents (passport, visa, tickets, etc.).
  • Finalize all travel and accommodation requirements.
  • Undertake necessary immunizations.
  • Purchase medical insurance coverage for period of placement.
  • Submit a signed International Field Placement Waiver form.
  • Ensure course registration for all required ISWD courses during the appropriate terms.
  • Begin SK650: Advanced Field Education placement (mid-August).

During placement

Fall term

  • Begin requirements for SK597: International Social Work Research Paper.
  • Adhere to the placement dates provided and complete requirements for the advanced field course SK649 (5 days/week, 720 hours, mid-August to mid-December).
  • Follow up as required with field coordinator, off-site field instructor and/or field advisor and course instructors for SK622 and SK597.
  • Meet the requirements of the host placement agency.
  • Fulfil requirements of the learning plan developed with field instructor.
  • Participate in scheduled meetings facilitated by off-site instructor and/or advisor.
  • Participate in a midterm (due October) and final evaluation (due December).
  • Ensure registration in ISWD winter course.

Upon Return

Winter term

  • Complete SK597: International Social Work Research Paper and SK622: Personal and Professional Identity.
  • Present at the international colloquium.

Funding Opportunities and Fees

Students pay tuition fees at Laurier and are responsible for all expenses incurred towards the international placement, including travel, accommodation and health insurance. All ISWD courses are covered under student fees and there are no extra charges through the university. In the past, students have offset their expenses through scholarships and organizing various fundraisers. There may also be opportunities to apply for external grants. Some international organizations assist with housing or offer students a stipend towards accommodation or meals. Such financial assistance is offered at the discretion and capacity of the organization. There are a few funding opportunities available to ISWD students, including:

  • The Faculty of Social Work International Placement Bursary Fund, which is available for Laurier MSW students participating in ISWD who demonstrate financial need (i.e. the host country is not providing financial assistance); approximately $7,000 is distributed equally amongst students who are not receiving funding from other sources.
  • Our partner agency in China provides students with a monthly stipend (approximately $800/month) and covers the cost of accommodation, utilities and meals for each student.
  • Laurier International facilitates additional scholarship opportunities that are open to graduate students completing an international placement; students are encouraged to complete their ‘student profiles’ on LORIS to be considered for some of these opportunities. 

Logistics

Visa

Many countries require internship students to obtain a Visa. It is the students’ responsibility to ensure that they have obtained the necessary documents and permissions necessary for travelling to, and completing their placement. In most cases, students will apply to renew their visa while on an international placement. Students are advised to prepare for costs and deadlines associated with renewing a visa.

Health Insurance

Student fees include supplementary health insurance. Students should obtain detailed information about this coverage and determine its suitability for their individual circumstances. Health requirements for each placement country may also require vaccinations and advance preparation. It is the student’s responsibility to visit their doctor and or a travel clinic well in advance of their anticipated departure.

Registry of Canadians Abroad

Students are encouraged to register online with the Registry of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) managed by Foreign Affairs Canada. When students arrive at the placement destination they should contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate and request the activation of the student’s ROCA registration. This can be done by telephone, e-mail or in person.

OSAP

While away, there may be university registration and/or OSAP requirements as well as financial issues that might be expedited through the identification and naming of someone who can act on the student’s behalf. Giving a power of attorney to a family member or friend can be done through a simple legal document that can be notarized for a small sum.