May Term trip provides a global perspective on local social work issues

Costa Rica

Social work students participate in the 2013 May Term trip to Costa Rica

For Assistant Professor Kristen Brendel, the 2014 May Term service learning experience to Costa Rica is an opportunity to apply learning from a global context to social work with Latino populations in the Fox Valley and beyond.

“Being in Costa Rica gives us insight into how culture and background have influenced Latinos, shaping who they are and how they interact with their environment. The largest non-white population in
the United States is Latino Americans,” she said, “It only makes sense that we see what works in Latino societies and try to apply those strengths to our services here.”

Kristie Brendel

Assistant Professor Kristen Brendel

The Social Work Practice in Costa Rica course provides students with several opportunities prior to and during the study-abroad excursion. During the 12-day trip, students will learn about the Latin American society and how to effectively communicate to Spanish speaking populations. Students will learn how social work services are practiced in Latin America by visiting local schools, volunteering in the community and attending presentations given by social work providers. Students also will have the opportunity to participate in local cultural activities and recreation.

MSW second-year student Diana Cruz, who participated in the trip last year, credits the experience with expanding her cultural competence. “Going to Costa Rica helped me become more open to new experiences and cultures,” she said. “It was a reminder that not everything is learned from books; it’s important to experience things firsthand. I not only learned about the Costa Ricans and their culture, I became more knowledgeable about their government and its role regarding education, healthcare and opportunity. What I learned there could set an example for making our own country better in terms of personal accountability and overall social responsibility.”

“Through this trip, students can become even more empowered to effectively work with and advocate for diverse people and cultures,” said Brendel. “My wish is for students to be able to generalize this experience with all types of client-systems. They can educate others on how, as a global society, we need to understand where we are all coming from and also recognize that we are not all that different from one another.”

For more information, visit aurora.edu/mayterm.