Social work students visit Settlement House in London, England

Social Work Students Experience Social Work in UK

For the students in the SWK 595 Solution-Focused Practice in the UK class, the opportunity to go abroad and experience social work in the UK was one of enrichment and personal growth.

On July 7, Associate Professor Kristin Bolton led a group of nine undergrad- and grad-level social work students to London, England, where the students immersed themselves in a different culture. During their time there, they looked at the differences between solution-focused practices and social services in the UK versus the U.S.

“The purpose of this trip was to provide the students with an international experience,” Bolton said.

The students broke up into small groups and participated in a scavenger hunt. They were tasked with creating a case scenario of an individual or family that a social worker could engage with. The groups then had to identify 3-6 services that the client could access in London and go to those places and compare the services to ones the clients would access in Wilmington. Bolton said they were able to explore parts of the city London residents frequent and gain insight into the day-to-day lives of people that live in the city.

In addition to the scavenger hunt, the students attended a training at BRIEF, an internationally known organization where people from around the world come for training, and a settlement house, which is tied to the origin of the social work profession. A woman by the name of Jane Addams went to these houses in the late 1800’s and brought the knowledge back to America, where she created a settlement house in Chicago called the Hull House. The settlement movement originated in London and were institutions that provided resources to under-resourced communities.

Guy Shennan, the former head of the United Kingdom National Association of Social Workers, gave the presentation at the Settlement House.

For many students, experiences like this are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The students experience personal growth and bond with their classmates, all of which reinforces and expands on what they learn in the classroom.

“Studying abroad helped me grow as a person by allowing me to live in the moment, while immersing myself in a new country,” BSW student Megan Bolden said. “My travels also helped me continue to see the world through an unbiased lens. I was, ultimately, able to learn about London’s rich heritage, culture and politics while becoming more self-confident in daily decision making.”

For Bolton, the most rewarding part was watching the students have a blast and have new experiences. “Reading their journals is one of the most rewarding parts for me, because I can see how these experiences moved or changed them,” she said.

As a young person, Bolton studied abroad twice, and those experiences were the most monumental in her years as an undergraduate and graduate student. Knowing how expensive study abroad trips can be, Bolton designed this trip so that it would be short to reduce on costs, thus making it more affordable for the students.

Prior to the study abroad trip, four grad-level students, along with Bolton and Professor Chris Hall, attended the Social Work Education and Social Development Conference at the Dublin Royal Society in Dublin, Ireland. The conference takes place in a different country each year. Bolton said they were fortunate that the trip dates aligned with the conference so they were able to attend both.

Interestingly, their trip to London coincided with three major events in the city. The day they arrived was the day of Pride in London, an annual LGBT pride festival and parade, and the students got to see what that was like in another country. Parliament changed colors to align with and embrace gay pride. The World Cup occurred while they were there, with England beating Croatia, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and President Donald Trump visited the UK. Bolton said there were large protests related to Trump’s visit.

The trip marks the second year the School of Social Work has taken students to the UK. Bolton said as long as students continue to have an interest, they will continue to do it each year.

Bolton also said she would like to thank CHHS, the Office of International Programs and the Graduate School for the support they provided for the trip this summer that assisted with the costs for the students.

Click here to experience photos from the trip.