Social Work Study Away Programs

The Social Work Department at UIS strongly believes that undergraduate students who are able to go abroad for a semester, a summer term, or a short-term study abroad course ought to do so. Nothing can so profoundly enhance your understanding of American society and your own identity and culture than removing yourself from the United States and going abroad. Also, few experiences can be so effective in fostering an open-hearted appreciation for other cultures and peoples than immersing yourself in a place where you, as an American, are the other.  Social Work Study Away Programs attempt to provide our students with three to eight weeks abroad in the summer or in the winter break. The programs always contain either a language-learning component or else attendance at a social work or social development conference; some study away terms include both.  We have led students to Africa (Uganda, 2013), Europe (Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2017), and Asia (Taiwan and Indonesia, 2019) in social work study away programs. In 2020 we are proposing a program in Taiwan. We strive to keep these programs affordable, and we work to provide the students who participate in these programs with as much contact as we can with local people in the countries we visit.

More detailed information about the proposed 2020 summer course.

International Social Work: Taiwan Studies

This program will expose students to Taiwan, learning its language and culture, and experiencing intensive contact with local Taiwanese people through service learning and two weeks of study in a Taiwanese university. The program is interdisciplinary, and has components that touch on art, history, politics, the sociology of religion, international relations, language, and anthropology.

Students will spend nearly a week in Taipei to visit museums, Shih Chien University, and Academica Sinica. We may also visit Fu Ren Catholic University and National Taiwan University.

Then, students will enjoy four weeks of intensive Chinese language study in Hualien at Tzu-Chi University. There are also classes on Chinese culture and activities such as outings to learn about aboriginal Formosan tribal cultures.

After the four week language camp at Tzu-Chi University, students begin eight or nine days of service learning. Some students may go to Chiayi, Taiwan to serve in an elementary school or a residential care facility for profoundly and seriously developmentally disabled persons, while others will stay in Hualien. A variety of service learning sites are possible in Hualien, possibly including a psychiatric hospital, a youth center, a women’s center, the Tzu-Chi Foundation, or summer camps for children. Probably everyone remaining in Hualien during the service learning days will experience a day of service at the Tzu-Chi movement’s original temple complex, and everyone will also have a day of service at a recycling center.

Weekends are free while studying Chinese language and culture at Tzu-Chi University and doing the service learning. The professor will be happy to help students arrange weekend activities. Tzu-Chi University and some local hostels in Hualien also offer weekend activities. Hualien offers:

  • good access to beaches for snorkeling, surfing, and swimming (ride a public county bus down the coast south from Hualien, or joing an organized tour originating in Hualien),
  • mountains for hiking (visit Taroko Gorge National Park for breathtaking mountain and canyon scenery, accessible from Hualien by local county busses), and
  • cultural visits to villages and hot springs in the East Coast Rift Valley (take local trains south from Hualien).

The day after we complete our service learning projects, we will all go to a place together (those who were serving in Chiayi and those who were serving in Hualien), possibly in the mountains or possibly in western Taiwan or possibly on an offshore island.

Following a few days spent in some interesting Taiwan locality, we will return to the Taipei area for a day or two of final recreation before departing Taiwan.

International Social Work
description from the syllabus

This course will expose students to Taiwan, learning its language and culture, and experiencing intensive contact with local Taiwanese people through service learning and four weeks of study in a Taiwanese university. The course is interdisciplinary, and has components that touch on art, history, politics, the sociology of religion, international relations, language, and anthropology.

This is an upper division interdisciplinary course for undergraduate or graduate students who want to study Taiwan and engage in experiential learning while spending time in Taiwan. The course involves meetings with representatives of various professions working in modern Taiwanese society (human services, law, government, etc.), readings about the historical and current political-economic context in Taiwan, visits to sites and museums explaining and memorializing the history of China and Taiwan, visits to a variety of art, history, and cultural museums explaining the cultures of Taiwan, including indigenous Formosans and the large refugee population that arrived from China and took over control of Taiwan in the late 1940s. Students will have stays in the cities of Taipei and Hualien, and significant time in Eastern Taiwan, with visits to museums, cultural sites, and intensive exposure to local Taiwanese culture. The course will begin on approximately May 23rd with a flight to Taipei. We will return to Illinois on approximately July 15th. Final assignments are due July 24th, the conclusion of the course. Writing assignments include a learning journal that will be at least 3,000 words (about 15 double-spaced pages), a journalistic essay of at least 1,000 words (about 4 double-spaced pages), and 50+ hours of classroom study of Mandarin Chinese while in Taiwan.

The course is especially designed to give students a broader view of social development and social welfare, and aims to aid students in understanding international human rights and social justice movements by viewing these causes as they are perceived in another culture. The class will ideally give students many opportunities to immerse themselves in the visited culture, through language study and service learning projects in cooperation with local volunteers and social workers. The course will also facilitate meeting college students in the visited country. Through assigned readings and visits to sites in the target country combined with class discussions and reflection essays kept in a learning journal, students should have opportunities to gain a nuanced understanding of the culture of Taiwan, including an empathic appreciation for some of the values and priorities held by local people. There is also a comparative component of the class, asking students to compare their own culture to the culture they encounter, and compare their ideas and feelings before the travel period to their insights and emotions upon their return home.

Taiwan stands alone as a major country (America’s 10th largest trading partner, 22nd largest economy on the planet, home to 23 million citizens) outside the United Nations, with complex issues confusing its people’s identity and clouding its future. It has for centuries been an island involved in trading and agriculture: a source for deer hides, pineapples, tea, and sugar, but more recently, the source of most computer chips, nearly all laptop computers, and many LCD screens. A diverse group of aboriginal peoples have lived in Taiwan for millennia, and linguistic and DNA evidences suggests that Polynesian peoples and Malay-speaking people have distant ancestral roots on Taiwan. The Dutch East India Company colonized the island for a generation (from 1624-1662), bringing the island into an international trade regime. The island was then partly ruled by Chinese authorities, with some of the aboriginal population remaining independent and unconquered, until the Japanese took the island from the Chinese in 1895; for fifty years the Japanese developed the island as part of their empire, but then in the late 1940s the Nationalist Chinese Party received control of the island, and made it a refuge for millions of refugees and soldiers fleeing the victory of Communist forces back in China. For decades the Taiwanese were told that they were Chinese, and that it was their destiny to liberate the mainland from the yoke of Communist oppression, but that dream has been abandoned years ago, and now most Taiwanese have no interest in “reunification” with China. Today very few Taiwanese identify themselves as “Chinese” and instead identify as “Taiwanese” although it’s possible to say that Chinese culture and traditions remain stronger in Taiwan than in China, which has experienced nearly seven decades of Communist rule and a Great Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s.

The course begins with some days in the Taipei area, the largest metropolis, and the site of many interesting cultural sites and museums, enjoying a modern infrastructure and a cosmopolitan outlook. Following this introduction to the society, students travel to Hualien, the scenic port city on the east coast, where they begin four weeks of Chinese language and cultural study in the Tzu Chi University Chinese Language Center. Each morning and some afternoons (50+ hours of classroom time, total) students will learn the basics of Mandarin Chinese: the basic sounds, pinyin, tones, basic strokes, and gain a vocabulary of some of the basic words and phrases. Students who have studied Mandarin Chinese before will be placed in appropriate level classes. In some afternoons, students will participate in Chinese cultural enrichment programs or service projects, and there are a few days of educational tours instead of language classes. During the weekends between these weeks of study at Tzu Chi University, the students may undertake an outing, possibly to a national park in the mountains. At the conclusion of the four weeks of study at Tzu Chi University, students will conduct a service learning project for eight or nine days. Following the service projects, the class will visit other sites in Taiwan. The class will learn about local culture, and Taiwan’s mountainous interior or west coast. Following that, the class returns to Taoyuan or Taipei, spending a couple more nights in the Taipei region before going back to the USA. Students who need more time in Taiwan to complete summer internships will may return to their service learning sites to finish their field placements or practicums in July (possibly into early August) on their own.


Register for a Study Away Program

UIS Students

Register for the course prior to departure as you would register for any other course. Study away courses such as this one require an application, which you can submit to the UIS Study Away Office.

University of Illinois System Students [UIUC / UIC]

If you plan to take a summer course at your home institution, you need to do Concurrent Registration or else Intercampus Registration. You could, for example, take an online summer course at UIUC or UIC while you are taking the UIS SWK-461 course (there will be internet access in Taiwan so that you can participate). If you are doing that, you need Concurrent Registration.
If you will only take this one course, or only UIS courses this summer, you need to use Inter-campus Registration.


Contact Evan Stanley at the UIS Registrar (do this by the end of February, please). Let him know you intend to register.

Whether you are from UIC or UIUC, and whether you will be doing concurrent registration or inter-campus registration, you need to contact your UIS friend in our registrar’s office. The man you need to contact is Evan Stanley, Assistant Director of Records and Registration / Assistant Registrar, Office of Records and Registration, UHB 1076 (telephone is 217-206-6389; e-mail is You can send an e-mail giving your name and the appropriate study away course (SWK-461). Ask Evan if there is still room in the course (we can take up to 25 students, but I will be glad if we are lucky enough to attract 15).


Fill out the form for concurrent registration or inter-campus registration, and have your dean at your home school sign the form. (This ought to be done by March 7th, but the deadline is “soft” and we may be able to have student do inter-campus registration all the way into April; ask about it and see what can be arranged.)

You then must fill out a form (of course).

For concurrent enrollment, use the Application for Concurrent Registration.

If you are doing Inter-campus Registration, the form you need is the Application for Inter-campus Registration.

The course you want to enroll in at the host campus is “SWK-461” International Social Development.

Next, you need the dean in your home college to sign the form. For example, if you are at the School of Social Work at UIUC, have Dean Anderson sign the paperwork (Steve knows about the summer program and will be pleased to help you). If you are at UIUC College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Dean Feng Sheng Hu signs your paperwork. If you are at UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work, Dean Hairston signs the paperwork. At the UIC College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Dean Astrida Orle Tantillo signs your form. (actually, some of these deans may have their assistant dean or associate dean sign your form).


Submit your signed form to your home university’s registrar.

Before you submit the form (concurrent or inter-campus registration), be sure you have your home college undergraduate dean’s signature (or equivalent, e.g., an associate dean’s signature).

The concurrent registration form has a space for College Approval (Primary Campus), and you should get your own campus dean to sign that, but there is also a line for the Secondary Campus to approve, and you can let your own home campus registrar’s office collect that signature for you.

The inter-campus registration form only requires a signature from your home college Dean (approving undergraduate college Dean).

The deadline for summer courses is May 15th, but you should submit these forms in March, ideally by March 30th. We want more students to take the course, and we can probably arrange for you to register for the course and come along with us even if you register in late April or early May. Your program costs may be slightly higher (for the costs of the trans-Pacific flights), or you may be asked to make those arrangements on your own, but we can add additional spots in the hotels and during the Tzu-Chi University segment of the summer course all the way into early May.