“It’s the News of Difference That Makes the Difference”

Witnessing Social Action Through an International Collaboration Between Australia and Taiwan


  • Nandini Ray University of Wollongong
  • Lynne Keevers University of Wollongong
  • Yi-Yi Chen National Taiwan University Taipei, Taiwan


International social work, Study abroad, Social work education, Culturally sensitive practice, Practice-based


Short-term study abroad programs have been criticised in the literature as inauthentic, vul- nerable to inequity and lacking in reciprocity. Questions about the potentially extractive nature of study abroad programs are important debates and social work educators must ensure that the learning opportunities resulting in study abroad programs are grounded in authentic, ongoing relationships with the host country. This article discusses a collaboration between the Social Work departments of the University of Wollongong (UOW), National Taiwan University (NTU) and an international NGO based in Taiwan. One aspect of this collab- oration is a two-week study program in Taiwan for UOW social work students that focuses on themes of Indigenous cultural recovery, community development and elder care. These themes are grounded in non-government organisations who view care as a collective, relational, knowledgeable practice and are committed to creating possibilities for social justice. Qualitative data taken from the students’ reflexive essays, reflexive group discussions, student present- ations and participant observations are used to highlight the perspectives and impacts on learning for all involved in the collaboration and to identify that, when learning occurs, a difference is perceived and it is this difference that makes a difference. The paper contributes to the pedagogical evidence base for how international short-term study programs can enhance intercultural learning, critically reflexive practice and build respect, recognition and empathy for the ‘other’ amongst social work graduates.


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