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UND students in the Department of Social Work find excitement and a culture of caring while conducting fieldwork in Malmö, Sweden
It isn’t often that a student travels more than 4,000 miles to complete an internship, but that’s exactly what University of North Dakota students Bailey Kitko and Bridget Hill have done.
But before they left, Kitko and Hill had to make sure they were ready. On a warm summer day, they made their way to the Kenneth Dawes Conference Room in Gillette Hall at UND to meet with several professors and advisors for an official orientation to their study abroad block field Internship in Malmö, Sweden.
“(Orientation) was helpful, but honestly, I was prepared for whatever obstacles came my way,” Kitko said. “Excitement of a new place to call ‘home’ -- at least for a while -- can do wonders for one's perspective and optimism.”
Joining the orientation team remotely from Norway, Melissa Gjellstad, UND Associate Professor of Norwegian, helped answer many of Kitko and Hill’s questions about living and working in Sweden. The orientation covered everything from safety and comportment, to money and sightseeing to practical preparations to combating fatigue and homesickness.
Emily Dougherty, UND Education Abroad program manager, presented the students with tips and resources to help make their stay in Malmö successful and safe.
Additional advice was offered from faculty members Bret Weber and Jayasundara, whose travels to Malmö and previous field experiences provided direction and helpful hints for managing the adventure ahead.
Now that the women are in Sweden, they are immersing themselves into the culture and enjoying their time, while staying busy at the same time.
“Excitement and curiosity have been two of my most felt feelings since I've arrived,” Kitko says. “Whether in my agency or just wandering the streets and immersing myself into the Swedish culture. A person can't truly prepare for what to expect when relocating somewhere new, especially abroad. Therefore, it's important to keep an open mind about everything and to really embrace the motto of ‘go with the flow.’”
“Sweden has a very holistic approach when it comes to helping people,” Hill said. “The United States is hierarchical and Sweden is horizontal, meaning organizations and agencies are flat. Everyone's input is welcomed and collaboration is deemed more important than only one person's input.
“I learned about ‘flat organizations’ in classes, but living in one is extraordinary. People come first, then paperwork. Relationships with clients are significant and more important above all else. It is wholesome and holistic. I will bring a lot of these techniques back with me.”
This innovative program was made possible through a bilateral agreement and memorandum of understanding with Malmö University in Sweden, put in place in January after a year of hard work and coordination by the UND Social Work faculty team. The Social Work Department is part of the UND College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines.
The agreement encompasses four options: a study abroad Internship, a two-week study abroad policy course in February or next year, a traditional 20-week semester exchange in the fall 2017, and the hosting of Swedish students for campus-based classes or volunteering at local community-based agencies.
Additionally, the faculty is exploring joint grant opportunities.
Jonas Christensen, international coordinator for Malmö University’s Social Work Department, who visited UND last March, plans to return to teach and conduct comparative research in partnership with UND faculty during the upcoming spring semester.
During their internship, Kitko and Hill will be working with migrant and refugee populations in Malmö. Kitko, an undergraduate social work student, will be working with migrant adolescent youth who entered Sweden unattended. Hill, who is pursuing her master’s degree, will be working with migrant people who are homeless and whose plans to find employment in Sweden have not yet materialized.
“I would like to thank the social work department, especially Dheeshana (Jayasundara, Kitko and Hill’s field liaison from UND ), whom I will have regular contact with while in Malmö,” Kitko said. “I would also really like to thank Jonas Christensen and Johanna Ivarsson from Malmö University. They have been very welcoming and accommodating. Without the assistance from them, this would not be possible.”
UND Social Work Department Chair Carenlee Barkdull expressed appreciation for Malmö University faculty who have gone “above and beyond” to support Kitko and Hill in securing internships this fall, and for providing orientation and supports to them while they are in Sweden.
“Internationalization is one of our department’s strategic initiatives,” Barkdull said. “We are so proud of this partnership, which adds another unique tool for preparing social workers for practice in an increasingly global, diverse world.”
University and Public Affairs student writer