Social Work Seniors Intern Across the Ocean

Despite cultural differences and miles of difference between Elizabethtown College and other countries, Andy Dunlap insists, “We’re all connected.”

Dunlap, an associate social work professor at Elizabethtown College, works with fellow Department faculty members to ensure that seniors gain an understanding of this interconnectedness. Senior social work students are required to complete 600 hours of hands-on internship time before graduating. Many students complete their first 200 hours far from Lancaster County—on another continent.

Each year, the Department sends students to countries such as India, New Zealand and Mexico to work for organizations whose intent is to brighten the lives of troubled individuals.

Alyson Courtney spent her fall 2016 semester in Dunedin, New Zealand, balancing 150 hours with Christian-based mentoring program Rock Solid and 50 hours at a night shelter. The homeless shelter taught her the unique cultural rules of New Zealand, including “no sitting on tables” and “keep bare feet away from cooking food,” she said. On the other hand, her work with adolescent girls in Rock Solid showed her how similar people from different countries can be: “I was working with high school girls, and high school girls everywhere deal with the same issues,” Courtney said. “They have body issues and parent issues.”

At the end of the semester, the Rock Solid group leaders took the girls on a retreat to a large, beautiful house three hours out of the city. The group went hiking, rock climbing and held a picnic, incorporating self-love lessons into their daily activities. Courtney said she thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and has only positive memories of her time in New Zealand.

Sasha Dellazanna also spent her fall semester abroad, but in Chennai, India. Having previously spent a semester in Italy, Dellazanna knew that she wanted to do international work. During the semester, she worked for an organization called Udavi, teaching life-skills to community members with the help of a translator. However, she switched to a children’s shelter because of the difficulties in navigating the local language.

She said that she expected the language barrier, but was “just winging it going in, hoping for a good experience.” She went on to say that she wanted to get out of her comfort zone. “I wanted something that would really challenge me,” Dellazanna said.

She also said that the elementary-age students, who were learning English, were easier to work with. “We were able to learn from each other,” she said.

Like Courtney, Dellazanna had to adjust to new cultural norms, such as eating with her hands and dressing conservatively in India’s heat. Dellazanna said that the curveballs of Indian culture taught her “there’s always more to learn.”

Courtney and Dellazanna encourage others to study abroad. There is no wonder why—by studying abroad, these seniors developed connections, memories and skills that will allow them to transcend borders.

Please note: Staff writer, Rebecca Easton, originally wrote this article for E-town NOW published on April 5, 2017. E-town NOW is Elizabethtown College’s online newsroom. Click here to view the original article.

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