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Exchange experience from Germany – new perspectives to social work

Yuno, English social services degree student, spent the autumn of 2022 as an exchange student in Hannover, Germany.

My exchange contributed to my interests and offered whole new ideas and perspectives to social work.

I am interested in community work and themes such as equality, empowerment and mental health. All kinds of art, such as drawing, writing and dancing, are close to my heart and I definitely think that art has a place in social services too. Exchange was a great opportunity to deepen my understanding and get practical experience on these themes.

Valuable experiences and engaging discussions

During my exchange in University of Hannover I worked in a project related to campus community garden. Community garden is a space on campus where people can come together to do gardening. There are also workshops and social events for students. My task was to plan how to improve the campus garden. In the future the garden could be used for other projects so than other social groups like elderly people could be invited there too. Campus garden was a great exprerience as I got to practice project management skills and help with community work.

In Diak my studies have been primarily practical, though also deep at times. In Hannover HS I got a lot of opportunities to discuss more holistic, ethical, and philosophical topics. We discussed ethical questions about sustainability, violence and nonviolence with some modern new directions in social work. For example I attended a course about social work after or during armed conflicts. I had also several courses related to sustainability and green social work. It was a really great experience to have these kind of courses besides more basic courses. They broadened my thinking and view of practice a lot.

During the courses we had a lot of space for discussions. Courses included presentations which were held individually on person. It was new to me because before I had only held group presentations online during the covid restrictions.

During the exchange, the most memorable experience for me was when I had the opportunity to hold one hour long presentation with interactive elements by myself. It was about human connection to their bodies and how presentation of human body is interconnected to how nature is presented in culture. I got very encouraging and supportive feedback from the professor and other students told me they got to think about things they haven’t thought before. It was really valuable practice for me. Overall these kind of interactive and profound discussions and presentations were a whole new way of studying for me.

New environment evokes new way of thinking

I think it makes a big difference to change the environment even though the destination country wouldn’t be that far away. I notice that my brain works differently when I’m in a new type of environment, and especially when the structure of studies and the topics change. I feel like my mind expanded in some ways and the exchange really opened my thinking. That’s not necessarily because something was better but just because there were different ways of thinking and discussing. It made me reflect on myself in society and in social environments in new ways.

I really recommend exchange to everyone who is able to do it. It is probably very different experience for everyone and certainly it was different for me. I think it is something that everyone should do if they can.

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