International partnership: Course brings together social work, INTERLINK students

In Valparaiso University’s Social Work 240: Communication and Counseling class, partnership is the name of the game.

The class is conducted in partnership with the INTERLINK Language Center, which provides international students with language training, cultural orientation and academic preparation, along with other assistance.

This spring, 15 students in Social Work 240 worked with 18 INTERLINK students, engaging in conversation on a number of topics.

“It is a wonderfully enriching partnership we share,” social work instructor Barbara Crumpacker Niedner said.

In about a half-dozen meetings over the course of the semester, students engaged in conversations on topics such as family, coming of age, education, gender roles, dating and marriage, cultural stereotypes and cultural taboos. Diversity in practice is one of 10 core competencies of the social work program at Valpo.

“The INTERLINK students are eager to meet and talk in greater depth with American students about what America is really like,” Crumpacker Niedner said. “My students find this a very meaningful experience to practice making theory/frameworks come to life by learning about other people, other cultures, and how to practice the art of intentional communication with new friends who, at first glance, appear vastly different from themselves.”

“Our students often say this is a highlight of their experience in the INTERLINK program,” INTERLINK director Becky Shelton said. “The exchange often opens a door to friendship with an American student and gives our students confidence to reach out to other students on campus.”