The world was Kass Green’s classroom during her final months of the Bachelor of Social Work program.
One of two students to take part in the program’s first international practicum experiences, Kass says her experience with Ausländerrat Dresden e.V. from January to May 2019 was equal parts challenging, rewarding and humbling.
“In Canada, I consider myself to be a fairly competent person – I like to think that when something is asked of me that I can get it done, but when you don’t know a country’s system and you don’t speak the language, you have to really think hard about how to be useful.”
In our “Where in the World” series, students and faculty members share highlights from this year’s study tours, exchanges, internships and field schools. Talk to a faculty advisor or visit MacEwan.ca/EducationAbroad for opportunities.
So Kass focused on showing up every day, in every circumstance, with humility, a smile and a good attitude – whether she was supporting groups for immigrant mothers or fathers, or one of her agency’s community-based programs in local playgrounds and courtyards armed with hula hoops, chalk and soccer balls.
While the language barrier was a challenge, it could sometimes be a blessing, she says. Not being able to offer an opinion meant that she could focus on fully appreciating a system that was completely different than the one she had spent years studying.
“At its most basic, the philosophy in Germany’s social work system is that to solve problems and to improve the life for people living in communities that are struggling, social workers really have to be in the community,” explains Kass. “I got to see the way social workers were building relationships with people as they played soccer or cooked together or just talked. Those relationships meant that when those same people were going through rough times – when their husband was about to lose his job or their son was acting out in school or their daughter didn’t have a winter coat – they already have a social worker in their community who they trust and could ask for help.”
The recent Bachelor of Social Work grad knows the experience is one that will stay with her, and hope to use the perspective she gained in ways that challenge the status quo.
“I know I’ll forget some of the small moments, but I want to make sure I remember the feeling I had while I was in Germany,” she says. “To appreciate that things can be done differently and to carry that perspective forward with me.”