Skip to main content

International Social Work Program

The Faculty of Social Work's International Social Work Program (ISWP) 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 program fosters your understanding of global interdependence, the universality of social problems, and the need to develop responses grounded in the local community.

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


Master of Social Work (MSW) students in the two-year full-time and three-year on-campus part-time program, who successfully completed their first foundational placement, are eligible to apply for the ISWP. Students in the advanced standing part-time on-campus program may also apply. Successful completion of all first-year courses and ISWP courses, and participation in orientation sessions, are also requirements of the program.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Enrolled in the on-campus, full-time, two-year MSW, advanced standing part-time, or three-year part-time program.
  • Satisfactory performance in the field courses (foundational and/or BSW).
  • Good academic performance in the MSW program to date.

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

Program Sequence

ISWP combines courses and orientation sessions with an international advanced placement. Students interested in ISWP apply during the second term of their MSW program. A total of four courses are required for successful completion of the program. Two courses (SK596 and SK622) are offered during the spring term, followed by an international advanced placement (SK649) in the fall term. The international placement is in lieu of the second, advanced placement, and takes place between late August and December. A final course (SK592) is required after the placement is completed.


  • SK622: Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context
  • SK596: International Social Work Research
  • SK649: Advanced Field Education (five-day block placement in an international setting)
  • SK592: Transnational Social Work Practice

The ISWP 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 ISWP program and an international placement but wish to learn about international social work may enrol in SK596 (Research in International Social Work) and SK592 (Transnational Social Work practice), which are open to all students. SK622 (Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context) and the international placement are only open to students approved for participation in the ISWP program.

Course Exemptions

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

ISWP students are exempt from courses that are tailored to the learning needs of students completing a local advanced placement. In lieu of these exemptions, ISWP 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 ISWP 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, Uganda and Ghana. Past placement opportunities were provided in Tanzania, Kenya, Peru, India and the Philippines. Students seeking new placement opportunities may be encouraged to present their proposed placement to the coordinator during the first term of their program. Students are encouraged to review the Department of International Trade and Foreign Affairs Canada – Travel Reports and Warnings for information about any risk or safety issues about the country. 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 ISWP international placement 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. A shortlist of candidates will be invited for an interview with a committee of field education staff and faculty. Interviews are mandatory for all applicants.

Students will be selected for ISWP 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


Fall term

  • Attend information sessions during the first fall term of the MSW program.
  • Review the ISWP Guidebook.
  • Meet with field education coordinator.
  • Propose a placement by the deadline provided.

Winter term

  • Attend the colloquium presented by students returning from an international placement.
  • Submit the ISWP application no later than the due date (February).
  • Prepare for and attend interviews during February and March facilitated by the Field Education Office.
  • Successful applicants notified by March.
  • ISWP students are responsible for registration in all ISWP courses (SK622: Personal and Professional Identity: Reflexivity and Growth in International Context; SK596: International Social Work Research; SK649: Advanced Field Education; SK592: Transnational Social Work Practice).

Spring term

  • Pre-departure orientation for successful applicants facilitated by field coordinator and advisor.
  • Complete SK596: International Social Work Research.
  • 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 prior to departure.

During placement

Fall term

  • Adhere to the placement dates provided and complete requirements for the advanced field course SK649 (5 days/week; 720 hours; late August to December).
  • Follow up as required with ISWP coordinator, off-site field instructor and/or field advisor, and SK622 instructor prior to, and while on placement.
  • 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 mid-term (due October) and final evaluation (due December)
  • Ensure registration in ISWP winter course(s).

Returning students

Winter term

  • Complete SK592: Transnational Social Work Practice.
  • Present at the international colloquium during February.
  • Complete requirements for SK622.

Pre-Departure Orientation

Successful applicants to ISWP are required to participate in a pre-departure orientation program, which begins in the spring term prior to the international placement. Session topics include:

  • Preparing Yourself for the Placement Experience: Communication and Team-Building
  • Power Dynamics and Ethical Issues
  • Safety and Risk Management

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 ISWP 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 ISWP students, including:

  • The Faculty of Social Work International Placement Bursary Fund, which is available for Laurier MSW students participating in ISWP 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.
  • The Laurier-Ghana Partnership for Human Rights and Social Justice, which is a project funded by the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship program. Through the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee scholarship, students participating in a placement in Ghana can receive up to $6,000 in funding. Laurier graduate students interested in studying at the University of Ghana or in conducting research in Ghana for one semester are invited to send applications for Queen Elizabeth II scholarship funding. Students selected for the program are named “Queen Elizabeth Scholars.” They will engage with students and faculty of the University of Ghana as well as the people in the community, learn about the culture, and create projects and engage in activities that impact the world during their stay. Laurier MSW students have been recipients of this scholarship.
  • Laurier International also facilitates additional scholarship opportunities that are open to graduate students completing an international placement.



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 also 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.


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.