Just before starting my senior year of my Bachelor's Degree at Florida State University, I took a summer "International Social Work" course. I had the most incredible time exploring three different European countries all while experiencing the different cultures and what social work means within those cultures.
Recently, I've been looking for something to do this summer that would hold the same sort of experience. What I've discovered, is that opportunities are not as clearly defined once you graduate and are in the "real world." I can't go on a school trip (nor would I really want to). I also don't have the time to go on a volunteer practice trip (because I don't have the required minimum time commitment available). So what do I do?
Side Note: If you have the time and are interested in volunteer opportunities, here are some links.
I decided the best opportunity for me would be to attend a conference of interest in a location I would like to know more about.
Top Ten Tips for Planning your International Social Work Trip!
- Define your goals for this trip. Here are some of my goals: I want to learn, I want to experience cultures different than mine and I want to network with other like-minded professionals.
- Google. Seriously!! Things that I have discovered... while social work is an international term, the organizations that run the differing social work entities are called different things. Go figure! For example, in the United Kingdom, it is called the British Association of Social Workers. In Australia, it is called the Australian Association of Social Workers. Within each country's Social Work association, also lies connections to trainings and conferences.
- Narrow down your interests. Searching for a preferred topic is also a good idea. For example, there is a Trauma Conference in Lithuania that looks really good. I personally have a small window of time that I can travel. So while there were several conferences that are of great interest to me, I need to focus on the ones that I can realistically make work within my career and family time constraints.
- Dust off that passport (renew if needed) and check to see if your visiting country requires a visa.
- Use these great tips on finding a fabulously priced flight -> Traveling in Heels. Also, Kayak is a great tool. You are able to see their confidence level if you are getting the lowest price on the flight or not.
- Where to stay? Most conferences will include information on what hotels are nearby. But don't feel limited to just those options. There are many other choices such as hostels and booking sites like hoteltonight or airbnb. What I personally love about airbnb is that you can choose to put yourself right in the middle of the hot spots or tucked away from the hustle and bustle in a community where locals live and breathe.
- Be safe. Let your family/friends at home know your itinerary, but please be cautious with what you put on social media, especially if you are traveling alone. This tragedy touched me deeply: Sarai Sierra.
- Remember that your traveling costs are tax deductible since you are using this for business purposes! Keep those receipts!
- Network (even before you go!) Use those contact email addresses provided during registration if you have questions, that is what they are there for. Also, utilize networking sites such as Linkedin. You can make contacts/connections even before traveling.
- Last, but not least, make sure to schedule a few extra days for some fun! Put that passport to use and go: Explore the sights, Enjoy the culture, and Taste the food.
I hope this has inspired you to plan a trip, you will not regret the opportunities abroad. Oh and one more thing, don't forget your camera!