tiistai 26. toukokuuta 2015

Workshops in Summer School – reflection and brainstorming

International Summer School was a great opportunity to meet new people all around the World, but the main idea was to understand social work from a global perspective. The Summer School program included a wide range of interesting lectures, leisure time activities and five workshops. In my opinion, the workshops were a great space for reflection and brainstorming.   

In the first workshop, we basically just introduced ourselves: who we are, why we wanted to study social work etc. We discussed the differences of our education. The most shocking thing was to hear about the high fees students have to pay especially in the USA and UK. I have to say that we are really lucky here in Finland and we don't really understand that. 

In the second workshop, our group considered about learning disabilities: how these disabilities are faced and understood from the perspective of our countries. Everyone in our group was telling how people and especially schools react on learning disabilities in their country. In many countries (1) people with learning disabilities are easily stigmatized, (2) these people are ''covered up'', (3) the first way to ''help'' these people is giving them a medication. We also compared how social services are organised and what way we can support better for example kids with ADHD in school. We brainstormed some ideas over physical activities and animal-assistance.

Workshop number three was similar with the workshop number one. Our tutor was Dr. Johanna Hefel from the University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg (Austria) and she gave us free rein to choose the topic for our workshop. This workshop was one of my favorite because discussion was very natural and smooth. We analyzed the Finnish student panel. Dr. Hefel was really impressed about the student panel and we talked about the theme of stereotypes and taboos. The original topic for this workshop used to be environmental changes: what impact do  environmental issues have on social work practice, how im-portant environmental issues are in our countries and how they are identified and what is being done etc. 

In the workshop number four, we talked about migrations of people across national borders, e.g., im-migrants, refugees, asylum seekers. In our workshop group, we had students from the UK, Finland, Vietnam, Pakistan, Austria and USA, so it was a wonderful chance to hear about the stereotypes or be-liefs that are used to describe people who belong to non-national cultural groups in our countries. We also talked, what are the main reasons why they have come for example to Finland. In the UK, for ex-ample, the biggest reason for migration is studying. About 50% of the migrants comes from the EU, and the other 50% from other parts of the World. In Pakistan, the situation is very different. There are about 3.7 million refugees! In our workshop group, we pondered about the differences between our countries, but we also find something sad we have in common: non-national cultural groups are often seen as the freeloaders in our society. Can we change this belief?

Workshop number five was the final workshop. Before the workshop, Professor Stanley Witkin from the University of Vermont (USA) showed us a video about human rights. Our job was to discuss about our reactions to the video, are human rights universal or natural etc. The video was criticized about being made from the perspective of European Union. One student said that it was like an advertisement. In the end, we had a great discussion about the human rights and how those rights are actualised in our countries. From the Finnish perspective, we have quite good situation, but in some countries human rights are just an ideological castle in the air. 

-  Niina Ellala, University of Lapland

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