Topic: Strengthening international exchange in the field of social work studies
In the view of exchange experts, the need for internationalization in the study of social work is undisputed. This arises from the fact that international exchange programs represent an important and experience-rich learning field for prospective social workers. Additionally, current challenges in a transnational world, such as migration movements, demand new and innovative solutions to meet the diverse target groups in social work according to their needs. It is therefore necessary to improve the practice of social work in one’s own country and to prepare intelligent cooperations in practice, theory, and research (cf. Konopka 1969, p.3 cited in Healy Link 2012, p.330). The competencies and skills that students can gain through international perspectives are considered key competencies nowadays (cf. Chang 2006, p.1ff; Göbel et al. 1998).
Participants in international exchange programs break out of their everyday structures and are confronted with new situations, cultures, and personal boundaries. They experience themselves and their fellow colleagues facing new challenges. This creates a variety of effects: from the education and development of a cultural identity to the influence on professional development, to effects that affect personal development (cf. Abt et al. 2006, p.46f; Thomas et al. 2007, p.133f.). (Prospective) social workers have a special responsibility, which they have not only carried for a few years. For the pioneers of social work in the German-speaking world, it was almost self-evident to establish cooperations with students and professionals from other countries. According to the opinion of international social workers, the imparting of intercultural key competencies must receive greater consideration in the study in order to enable them to meet the complex requirements of the addressees. Implementing international exchange formats to the studies of social work can and will have, as studies show, a greater impact in achieving those crucial competencies for social work.