Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WEEK 12: Exchange with Mexican University (UNAM)

As students of Social Work from various universities and colleges in the United States, we have started to compare some of the differences and similarities within our educational experiences. Through an exchange with Mexican Social Work students we have continued to explore the differences and similarities in the career of Social Work. We spent the week in Mexico City at UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, which happens to be the second largest university in the world with the biggest Social Work program in Latin America. It was a privilege to interact with Social Work students and faculty in Mexico.

During our Tour of the University we Passed by the Library

Some of the biggest differences between programs in Mexico from the United States are the curriculum and practicum of the students. Social Work students at the UNAM start into their coursework and programs beginning in their first semester. As we have experienced in the United States, it is more common for a year or two of prerequisites to precede coursework towards a major.

The UNAM program is designed to be completed in nine semesters or four and a half years. Courses for each semester are predetermined and need to be taken in order; students can’t skip around or change their schedule. Students begin their practicum in the fourth semester. Practicum is broken into three areas: community practice, regional, and then a specialization. Two semesters are spent on each area. It is impressive that so much time in the UNAM’s program is dedicated to actual experience in the field of Social Work in addition to thorough coursework.
Fourth semester students from the UNAM presented their community practice work to our group. The goal of this practicum group of students was to work with youth to prevent drug addiction. The students trained the school’s staff, spoke with students, and presented to parents bringing awareness to the issue. This group of 12 students then measured the success of their efforts and critiqued their work. This hand-on experience was a great opportunity for the students to gain knowledge in the field of Social Work and to create applicable programs for communities.
After the presentation from Social Work students, they were interested to learn about our programs and field experience. A group of our students gave examples of internships and volunteer experiences. It was clearly different that our experience is much more individual based than the field practice of students in Mexico, which emphasizes community and group work.

Katie, Katelyn, Devin and Ashley Talking to UNAM Social Work Students about their own Experiences with Internships and Programs in the United States.

Throughout the week we were able to see how our curriculum varies from Social Work in Mexico. I feel that the experience was a great way to gain knowledge of what working with Social Workers not trained in the United States would be like if future research opportunities or job options took our work beyond U.S.

--By Julie Blatz

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