Greetings from Beijing!

For the second year in a row Indiana University School of Social Work students are in China as part of an international study abroad class.

Susan Larimer, the School of Social Work’s MSW Student Services Coordinator and faculty member and  Jieru Bai, a PhD student at the School, are co-instructors of the class. This year they were joined by Dr. Mary Beth Riner, a nursing professor. The class left the U.S. on June 3rd and will return on June 23rd. Larimer reports the class is focusing on a common health care issue for both countries. 

students in china “We have a large study abroad class this year with 19 students and 3 instructors. We have several disciplines represented in the class:  social work, nursing, public health, biology, and anthropology.  We have undergraduate, graduate and even one doctoral student in nursing in our group (Cathy Fulton), Larimer explained in an e-mail from China about trip.

“Our class spans six weeks, three of which are in Beijing. Each week in China we will focus on a common health care issue for both countries.  Our partner professor is Professor Liping Guo, from the Department of Foundational Education at Peking University Medical Campus.  She has made all the arrangements for our visits and recruited all of the Chinese students to come and take the course. This course would not be possible without her hard work and dedication. She has arranged for us to have some incredible nationally-known experts talk to our class.  For example, Dr. Ma Hong is one of a handful of Chinese Psychiatrists and has started the first pilot project in the country with community mental health case management using social workers and nurses, which is completely new territory for them.  Professional Social Work is still a new concept here, and most of the places that we have been are actively interested in hiring social workers, but lack local experts to help train and support them.  Nursing is well-established here, and often takes on the role of social work along with volunteers.  We have had several nursing professors come and speak to us, and they genuinely asked me if I got paid when I worked in medical social work.  I assured them I did!” 

Larimer explained the U.S. and Chinese students have been placed in small groups so that they can work together during class discussions, have lunch together and go on the afternoon visits together. “This personal contact with local students is what makes this class particularly engaging for students.  We have several PhD Chinese students in Public Health and Medical Humanities, as well as other fields like social work, nursing and chemistry.  The students have already learned much about each other, and hopefully have formed some connections that will last beyond the class.” 

Week one of the class was spent talking about cancer and visiting a cancer hospital and a cancer support group agency, as well as a general hospital. The second week focused on mental health, and focused on cultural definitions of mental illness and the stigma of having a mental illness in both countries. The students visited a mental health hospital and a community mental health center, along with a couple of other university departments. Students had to design an anti-stigma commercial in class in small groups made up of both Chinese and U.S. students, and perform it for the class.

“Week Three will focus on migrant healthcare and we will get off the beaten path a little bit and take a day trip to visit a community health center for migrants on the outskirts of Beijing.” 

In addition to the academic work, everyone has had a great time exploring Beijing.  “Our students have mastered the art of the Beijing subway and can get pretty much anywhere they want to go.  Our travels around the area would not be possible without the help of Professor Jieru Bai, who is a Chinese national and PhD student at IUPUI in social work.  Jieru’s knowledge of Chinese culture, her language skills and her assistance in being a tour guide have been instrumental in making the course a success.  She has translated for speakers in our class, has helped us order in restaurants, find where to go on the subway, taken us to tourist sites, explained to cab drivers the location of our campus hotel (hard for them to find), advocated for us at the hotel front desk when things went wrong, and explained many cultural issues that we may not have understood at first.”

Scorpion on a stickAt the time of Larimer’s e-mail the students had visited the Beijing Zoo, The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Qianmen Street, Lao She Tea House, The Lama Temple, The Summer Palace, among others. “One of the most interesting sites this week was the Night Market at Wangfujing.  This is an amazing cosmopolitan shopping area with an interesting outdoor market selling unbelievably daring things to eat.  Two of our students (Mara Weiss and Jackie Keene) actually ate a fried baby shark on a stick, and Jackie and Melissa Davis also ate a fried scorpion.”

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
(317) 278-0303