SWRK 772: Postcolonial Social Work Practice: International Social Welfare in India

Important Dates

Pre-travel course sessions at Penn


Dates in Kolkata, India

May 20 – June 30, 2019


The application for this course is currently closed.

Course Description

Road in India

In this course, students examine the global welfare system and its engagement with marginalized communities. This six-week course in Kolkata, India, centers around a sex workers’ collaborative in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light districts. Interviews with the collaborative’s workers and student of their grassroots movement are combined with class discussions and research projects in which students engage with texts on HIV, sex work, feminist postcolonial theory, and international social work.

Students receive assistance throughout the course from the Teaching Assistance, who will be with students for the duration of the trip and will show them around Kolkata upon arrival. In the beginning, trips to Durbar (the organization with which we will be working) will be organized by the TA, including a week-long orientation. A trip to buy necessary clothing items will also be organized. Students will meet many Durbar members as well as some established friends in Kolkata who are familiar with the program. Activities can take placed as a group or individually, depend on student preferences. Once students choose their research topic, each research group will travel to Sonagachi three days per week. Times will vary depending on translator availability, but most work will be done between the hours of 10 am – 4 pm on weekdays. Some activities, such as a Night Walk through Sonagachi and International Menstrual Hygiene Day will occur in the evening. Group debriefing will occur more frequently at the beginning of the trip, as well as at each class meeting.


Any Penn graduate student may apply for this course, with a preference given to SP2 students.

Students do not need to speak a foreign language in order to participate in this course.

Students must be open-minded and have an appreciation for different worldviews and opinions.

Enrollment Requirements

In order to participate in this course, students will need:

  • A valid passport and visa
  • Previous travel experience recommended but not necessary
  • Familiarity with feminism and postcolonial theory
  • Patience, flexibility, and open-mindedness

Costs & Fees


Students are charged regular course tuition from their home program for this course.

Program Fee


Additional Expenses

(not included with the program fee)

  • Airfare
  • Housing Rental ($20/night; approximately $840 for the course duration)
  • Visa Application: 6 month tourist visa (estimated to be $63 + FedEx cost)
  • Transportation: Metro rides (20 Rupees/day; approximately $13 total for the duration of stay for students who use the metro every day
  • Optional Side Trips: weekend trips taken by students on their own (Ie: long weekends to Darjeeling, Mumbai, Kerala, Jaipur/ Taj Mahal, Singapore)
Financial Aid

This course is part of the Spring 2019 schedule and will be billed accordingly. Financial aid is applied to the Spring 2019 term.

SP2 Student International Travel Fund

SP2 students may be eligible to receive an award from the SP2 Student International Travel Fund to offset a portion of the cost of airfare/program fee if they have financial need. Students apply for a travel award when they apply for the course, and they will be notified of their travel award before they need to commit to the class. Students who receive this award will have it distributed as financial aid and it will be posted to the student’s financial aid account in the term in which the course is offered.


Plate of Indian food

Students are not responsible for finding their own housing. They will stay in pre-arranged apartments and will share a bedroom and bathroom with a roommate. Every apartment includes a kitchen, living area, and dining table. Each apartment also has a caretaker to help with any issues that might arise and to cook some meals.


Students pay for their own food, which is very inexpensive in Kolkata. They may shop for groceries and cook their own food ( with the exception of some meals that will be prepared by the caterer). Students may also take advantage of the many restaurants in the neighborhoods where they apartments are located, Students should expect to spend $20 or less per week on food expenses.

Additional Information

MSW Program

This course is designated as a clinical practice elective and a macro practice elective in the MSW program. It does not count as a policy option or research option.

MSSP Program

This course is pre-approved as an elective in the MSSP program.

Global Human Rights Certificate

This course is pre-approved to fulfill requirements for the Global Human Rights certificate.

Contact Information

Questions about online application, course registration, and travel awards
Questions about financial aid

Office of Financial Aid

Photos generously provided by Jenessa Marie Irvine.

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