Conducting rights-based short-term study abroad experiences

Susan Mapp, Elizabethtown College
Karen Rice, Millersville University


The number of short-term study abroad trips has been increasing and the majority of social work programs conduct them, often including service learning experiences. These trips can help students learn about countries and cultures other than their own and thus improve their ability to provide effective services. However, if not thoughtfully developed and executed, these trips can be nothing more than ‘voluntourism,’ and can violate social work ethics, including social justice, service, and dignity and worth of the person. Therefore, it is necessary for social work educators to ensure they are developing these experiences in a rights-based fashion that centers on the needs of the community. This article discusses how to apply the rights-based framework to these experiences with specific examples to promote a quality experience for all.