SWRK 798: Social Work in a Global Context

Social Work in a Global Context is a unique opportunity for Penn students to travel to Finland and study at the University of Lapland with cohorts of students from countries around the world. With the Finnish social services system as a foundation, students undertake a comparative examination of their own countries’ approaches to systems of welfare, education, childcare, and cultural sensitivity. Students from any discipline who have an interest in the Nordic approach to caring for citizens are invited to apply for this course. Students from Education, Public Health, and Social Policy and Government programs are strongly encouraged to apply.


This course is not currently scheduled.


There is no application available at this time.

Course Description

A mother and baby reindeer

The International Summer Program in Rovaniemi, Finland provides a unique opportunity for students and professionals in social work and related fields to explore the meanings, practices, and implications of social work and social welfare from a global perspective. A multinational cohort of students and faculty create an enriching environment for expanding and deepening understanding of global issues.

Through lectures, small group discussions, agency visits, excursions, and informal interaction, students and instructors from different countries learn about the issues and challenges faced by human services professions and organizations and the innovative programs to meet and enhance individual and social life. In addition, participants have opportunities to learn about the progressive social welfare system and social work services in Finland.

Part of this course involves travel to social service agencies in northern Finland and a two day stay near Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality in Finland where the majority population is indigenous Sami people. The course also includes a trip to Helsinki, where we will visit social service agencies and cultural centers in Finland’s largest metropolis.

Sample Itinerary for Finland Visit

This is a sample itinerary based on previous course arrangements. Speakers and excursions for 2019 will be finalized in the spring and may differ from previous years’ courses. Tentative Schedule:

  • Days 1-7: Lecture Days
  • Days 8-10: Excursion in Kevo, Utsjoki
  • Days 11-15: Excursion in Helsinki

This is a sample itinerary based on previous course arrangements. Speakers and excursions for 2019 will be finalized in the spring and may differ from previous years’ courses.

Day 1: University of Lapland

Welcome, Overview and Introductions

Presentations on the program theme and the University

Workshop Groups (small group discussions)

Welcoming Reception

Day 2: University of Lapland

Lecture: Finland as a Welfare State

Student Panels (presentations from students representing participating countries)

Lectures related to the program theme

Workshop Groups

Day 3: University of Lapland

Lecture: Samples from 2018

  • Skill Acquisition and Development: a tool for social work support in mitigating gender based violence
  • Constructing Service Discourses in Lithuanian Family Social Work

Student Panel

Workshop Groups

International Evening (Sharing aspects of different cultures)

Day 4: Rovaniemi

Choose a program option to explore Rovaniemi:

  • Excusions such as hiking, Arktikum Science Center and Museum
  • Korundi House of Culture
Day 5: Rovaniemi

Free time to explore Rovaniemi

Day 6: University of Lapland


Student Panels

Workshop Groups

Finnish Sauna (optional)

International “Pot Luck” Dinner

Day 7: University of Lapland


Student Panels

Workshop Group

Closing Ceremonies

Day 8: Excursion to Kevo/Utsjoki

Stop in Sodankyla; Presentation on School Social Work in Sodankyla

Inari Reindeer Farm

Arrival to Kevo: Opportunity to sauna

Informal gathering in sauna house

Day 9: Trip to Utsjoki

Visit to Utsjoki Elementary and High School

Free time in Utsjoki; Bridge to Norway

Visit to Utsjoki Church Village

Tour of Kevo Subarctic Research Station

Free time to explore Kevo and surroundings

Sauna and gathering in sauna house

Day 10: Sajos/Travel to Rovaniemi

Visit to Sojos: The Sami Parliament

Visit to Siida: The National Museum of the Finnish Sami

Return to Rovaniemi

Day 11: Travel to Helsinki
Day 12: Helsinki

Cultural visits e.g.,

  • Helsinki Cathedral-Evangelic Lutheran Church
  • Temppeliaukio (Rock Church) Sibeilius monument
Day 13: Helsinki

Agency visits

Kamppi: Chapel of Silence/Outreaching Social Work

Central Union for Child Welfare

Day 14: Helsinki

Agency visit: House for Girls: Culturally Sensitive Social Work

Ferry to Suomenlinna – Maritime Fortress

Pre-departure dinner

Day 15: Departure


Any Penn graduate or upper-level undergraduate student in good academic standing may apply for this course.

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

Prior to departure, students will need to submit the following to SP2:

  • Acknowledgement of Risk Form
  • Health Review Form
  • Create a MyTrips profile
  • Copy of passport

Costs & Fees


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

Program Fee: $1300

In addition to tuition, students are charged a $1300 program fee which covers lodging, travel within Finland, required museum fees, and some meals.

Additional Expenses

(not included with the program fee)

  • Airfare from the United States to Finland
  • Meals/Snacks that are not part of the official course itinerary.
  • Incidental Expenses
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 amount before they need to commit to the class. Students who receive this award will have it distributed as financial aid and it is posted to the student’s financial aid account in the term in which the course is offered.


A plate of food
Arrival and Departure

Students fly as a group from the United States to Finland for this course. The group will depart from the U.S. on Sunday prior to the Wednesday program start in Finland. Students must book their ticket on the flight designated by the course instructor. Departure is usually from JFK Airport in NYC and details will be shared after students enroll in the course. Students are welcome to choose their own flight home after the course ends; they are free to travel on their own or return to a different city.


Students will stay in hostels: Hostel Rudolf in Rovaniemi and Hostel Academica in Helskini. There are generally three people to a room with a shared bathroom.


While students are attending lectures/workshops at the university, they are responsible for all meals. The university offers discounted lunches for students (about 5.50 euros/meal), or students can pack their own lunch.

During travel, some meals are provided for students (and covered by the program fee). When meals are not provided, students may go grocery shopping or eat in a restaurant.

Additional Information

MSW Program

This course fulfills a general elective requirement in the MSW program. It does not count as a clinical practice elective, macro practice elective, policy option, or research option.

Contact Information

Questions about the course
Questions about financial aid

Office of Financial Aid

Photos generously provided by Hazel Sheen.

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