Panoramic aerial view of Salzburg, Austria

The Helen Bader School of Social Welfare proudly offers opportunities for students to learn about social welfare issues from an international perspective.

Students can choose from programs in Austria, Costa Rica and South Africa. All programs are open to students in any major.

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The University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria Summer Course in Social Work and Criminal Justice is a two-week intensive course of study in comparative public policy. This course is relevant to students in social work, criminal justice, history, political science, psychology, peace studies and other related disciplines.

Comparative Public Policy and Practice: Social Work & Criminal Justice Program

This two-week summer course for students focuses on Austria’s public policies. Topics relate to social work practice, criminal justice, services to children and families, treatment of addictions, immigrant families and social justice. Within each of these areas, students compare an aspect of the Austrian system to a similar concept in the U.S.

Students are housed in a hotel in Linz near the university and on a direct transportation line to the city center. The accommodations consist of a double sleeping room with a bed and desk for each student and a private bathroom.

The Austria course includes attendance at an international conference where there will be opportunities to interact with students and faculty from several countries. The second week consists of seminars, agency visits and historical tours of sites with significant impact on current public policies.


  • Lectures are in English. Translators will be available at all site visits to facilitate interaction with participants.
  • Students will attend lectures by foreign professionals and will visit agencies where they can interact with staff and users of services.
  • Lectures may include European social policy, issues of immigration and crime, historical background on the Nazi era, and responses to family violence and substance abuse.

Site Visits

Site visits may include:

  • Immigration centers and refugee camps
  • Violence prevention centers
  • Residential substance abuse facilities
  • Mauthausen, a former Nazi concentration death camp
  • Local police departments
  • Garsten prison
  • Residential center for youth involved in the criminal justice system

The two weeks are full, but there is time built-in for additional travel. There is one unscheduled weekend where students can take advantage of day trips to Vienna, Salzburg or the area around Linz. Adventurous students may decide to visit an adjoining country such as Germany, Hungary or the Czech Republic.

Assignments and Grading

  • Attendance at mandatory orientation meetings including a pre-departure orientation program hosted by the Center for International Education (CIE).
  • Attendance at all lectures and site visits. At each of the visits, students generally attend a presentation after which they will have an opportunity to interact either with service users or staff.
  • Students are graded on their participation in these lectures and site visits as well as on their final written assignment. The program instructor will attend the lectures and site visits and be responsible for course grading. The final assignment is graded based on the adequacy of the research and a comparative analysis.
  • A syllabus will be available before departure. The final project is due in August.

A rough estimate based on previous years is between $2,400-$3,000 and includes tuition, lodging, international conference registration, lectures, agency visits, ground transportation and some meals.

Airfare is not included, but many students have been able to get low airfare by researching deals and booking early. Students can apply for and use financial aid for the program. Scholarships and grants are available for qualified undergraduate and graduate students. Apply early and submit by posted deadlines!

Please contact Amy Kirby, or visit the Center for International Education.

Amy Kirby
Clinical Associate Professor

A group photo of students during their study abroad trip in Austria
  • Dates:
    June 1-15, 2024
  • Credits:
    3 credits in Social Work or Criminal Justice & Criminology (undergraduate or graduate)
  • Online Information Sessions:
    Monday, January 15, at 5:00 p.m.
    Thursday, January 18, at 5:00 p.m.
    Thursday, January 25, at 12:00 p.m.
    Tuesday, January 30, at 12:00 p.m.
  • Instructor:
    Amy Kirby
    Clinical Associate Professor
  • Visiting University:
    University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria

South Africa

Health and Social Development Short Course in South Africa

Study at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Coursework will be taught by faculty in South Africa and includes:

  • South African welfare policy
  • Role of community in social development
  • Cultural practices in health care
  • Mental health and substance abuse in South Africa
  • South African social policy

Learn from the community in numerous field visits, including:

  • Townships
  • Substance abuse centers
  • Health care
  • Community development

Visit cultural and historical centers in Cape Town, including:

  • District Six museum
  • The Slave Lodge
  • Robbin Island

The estimated cost is around $3,200 plus airfare, some meals and incidentals.

Contact Melinda S. Kavanaugh for application and more information.

Exterior of an administrative building in South Africa
  • Dates:
    July 20-August 5, 2024
  • Credit:
    3 credits in Social Work or Criminal Justice & Criminology (undergraduate or graduate)
  • Open to sophomore, junior and senior undergraduate students and graduate students in any discipline.
  • Instructor:
    Melinda S. Kavanaugh

Costa Rica

The Costa Rica study abroad course immerses students in the language and culture of Central America. Students learn conversational Spanish and culturally competent practice — skills that prepare social work students to serve Latino clients in Wisconsin.

Spanish for Social Workers

Students will study with social work students and practitioners from across the U.S. during this two-week course, Spanish for Social Workers, which was developed in consultation with the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

The course consists of classroom study, lectures by social work scholars, and visits to nearby social service agencies, as well as exquisite nature preserves and ecological tourist sites. The intensive language course accommodates each student’s current language skill level, ranging from beginner through advanced.

Evenings are free for study and socializing in the Central Plaza (where most young people meet). Grecia has a thriving local central mercado, various restaurants, bars and coffee houses.

Costa Rica is hot and humid, which determines many of the local customs from the way homes and communities are laid out to how people dress (modest, loose clothing). You will eat a lot of local shaved ice.

Host Families

  • The Academia curriculum includes students living with host families during our visit.
  • All host families live within walking distance of the school.
  • Families provide students with a private room for study and sleep, laundry service, breakfast and supper.
  • Family-style meals allow you opportunities to engage in conversation, ask questions, and clarify understanding, all in Spanish, since your host family is unlikely to understand English.
  • About 30 social work students are housed throughout Grecia.

Students must attend all language class sessions and participate in all conferences and site visits. A final paper is due after returning home.

Spanish Classes

  • Spanish classes are conducted in Spanish, and limited to two to four students at similar levels per teacher.
  • Instruction takes place five days per week from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Spanish is spoken throughout the day during all planned activities.
  • Three different workbooks, specifically developed for this course, are provided.
  • Breaks are taken in mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Lunch is on your own and class resumes at 1:30 p.m.


Four lectures address various current topics:

  • Costa Rica: An overview of the country and culture
  • Latino and Norteamericano cultures: Similarities and differences
  • Social work in Costa Rica: Who does what, how and where?
  • Increasing effectiveness with Latino clients

On four afternoons there are choices of cultural and recreational activities (salsa dancing, cooking, and optional sightseeing, river rafting, zip-line tours, etc.) The weekend offers some optional excursions, national parks and beaches, at an extra cost of $25-$200.

Field Trips

On two afternoons, field trips to two different social service agencies will allow us to engage informally with clients and practitioners while observing program activities. Site visits may include:

  • Child welfare organizations
  • Residential care sites
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Schools
  • Addiction treatment centers
  • Commodities distribution
  • International relief organizations

Current Social Problems

You may hear about:

  • Poverty
  • Drug trafficking
  • Illegal immigration
  • Sex trafficking
  • International food shortages
  • Global debt crisis
  • Sustainable environments
  • The impact of eco-tourism

The cost is estimated to be $3,900-$4,950 and includes tuition, lodging, airfare, most meals and ground transportation.

Please contact Jennifer Taylor-McBride, or visit the Center for International Education.

Jennifer Taylor-McBride
Clinical Assistant Professor and Social Work Field Liaison

Group photo of students during their study abroad trip to Costa Rica
  • Dates: January 1-17, 2024
  • Credits:
    3 credits in Social Work or Criminal Justice & Criminology (undergraduate or graduate)
  • Online Information Sessions:
    Tuesday, Sept. 12, 5:00-6:00 p.m.
    • Check your UWM email for links to each information session.
  • Instructor:
    Jennifer Taylor-McBride
    Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Visiting University:
    Academia Centro Americana de Espanol