This program combines course work with experience in a foreign country. Dr. Maha Younes organizes the life-changing and unforgettable international experiences with the goal of promoting global awareness, cultural competence, and understanding of human and civil rights. This experience is open to all UNK students, professionals, & community members. It provides students with the opportunity to earn three upper-level credit hours with CD designation (cultural diversity). The experience takes place every other year during the later part of May.
I have always dreamed of faraway places, fascinating cultures, and people whose stories captivate my interest and touch my soul. The nineties ushered a new era of globalization, internationalization of curricula on college campuses, and social diversification that continues to challenge our nation. The new world order that emerged demands engaged citizens who are able to impact the world and to make a difference. Cultural sensitivity and competence among students and community members has become a necessity!
In 1999, I developed the International Social Work Experiences for the Social Work Department. The goal was to immerse students/participants in a world beyond their own, and to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity. Participants would be travelers not tourists. They would interact with local people and appreciate their social challenges. They would examine social issues and policies that impact the civil rights of minority groups who reside at the fringe of society in host countries. Israel and West Bank, Scandinavia, Australia, China, and Ireland were great destinations. The visits to hospitals, orphanages, schools, detention facilities, adoption agencies, refugee and resettlement camps, and inner cities will never be forgotten. Tears, laughter, heated discussions, and the countless unforgettable moments shared during those adventures continue to dance in my head. Most memorable are those “aha moments” when faces light up and appreciation for differences replaces naiveteé. Our last adventure took place in May 2010 to the Holy Land, and twenty-eight more lives were touched, a few more “aha moments” were noted, and special memories were created. Alums, professionals, and community people and are always welcomed along, and seem to love these experiences even more than students.
That is what social work is all about; touching lives and being touched by them, the opportunity to make a difference, and yes, those aha moments. I am living the dream!