Effectively preparing students for international field placements through a pre-departure class

Andy Dunlap, Elizabethtown College
Susan C. Mapp, Elizabethtown College


Goals of international social work internships include greater cross-cultural sensitivity, professional growth, increased awareness of the impact of culture on the helping process, and a greater degree of intercultural adaptability, however, purposeful preparation is required to these desired goals. Therefore, a US BSW program developed a semester-long pre-departure class for students preparing to complete international internships. Theories of intercultural development and cross-cultural competence shaped the curriculum to help students increase self-awareness and critical reflection on their home culture; develop an understanding of cultural values about helping and social work as a profession in the destination country; and learn practical aspects of international travel and living abroad. Utilizing a non-randomized comparison group, significant differences were found on the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory.