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Through study abroad, MSW student uses the world as her classroom

By Alexis Rogers, KLN ’19

Master of social work student Sierra Arigurinu’s experience in the field extends far beyond Philadelphia: After never imagining an education abroad as an undergraduate student, Arigurinu  traveled over the 2017-2018 academic year to Poland, Iceland, and Germany, where she studied at the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt through the School of Social Work and Office of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses

As part of the programs in Poland and Germany, she and other Temple students explored poverty and social exclusion with students from host countries. Thanks to these experiences, Arigurinu said that she has a better understanding of how to look at events and situations from different perspectives. She was able to learn about the differences between poverty in each of the countries and the factors that affect it. For instance, she discovered that while the issue of poverty is strongly rooted in race in the United States, immigration seemed to play a larger role in the countries she visited.

Arigurinu also said she was confronted with her own personal biases about different topics in her field, especially in trying to understand the system of reporting incidents concerning children.

“As much as I like to think like I'm very open minded, as much as I like to think like I'm always listening to people, at the end of the day sometimes I have my own perspective on situations,” said Arigurinu. She found that, in Poland, incidents involving children are attempted to be resolved within the community or on a smaller scale before going to officials. This is a contrast to the experience she’s used to in  the United States, where cases are typically reported to officials automatically. .

In Iceland, Arigurinu traveled through “The Green Program,” an organization that aims to educate students on environmental topics through firsthand experience abroad. The Iceland program focuses on sustainable food systems and renewable resources, specifically hydropower, thermal energy, and wind energy. While learning about these topics, Arigurinu and her group explored glaciers, mountains, hydropower plants, and greenhouses.

Inspired by these experiences, Arigurinu plans to start a community garden in Philadelphia, which she believes will have a meaningful impact on the community.

“I think with starting that community garden, it's obviously going to change a lot about the neighborhood,” said Arigurinu, “If you start having community gardens, then people start taking care of their neighborhoods, and then if they start taking care of their neighborhoods, then things start changing. So I feel like it's a mini step that could lead to much better improvement.”

After graduating, Arigurinu plans to start her own practice and open a housing project that includes schooling and therapy for children. She encourages everyone, both undergraduate and graduate students, to take advantage of the opportunities to study abroad:

“I think it's good to get out and experience firsthand, because we're only going to get so much from a textbook; we're only going to get so much from an article. But actually getting out and experiencing things is awesome."

Learn more about study abroad opportunities at Temple.

Photo caption: MSW student Sierra Arigurinu studied abroad in Poland, Iceland, and Germany.

Posted:  October 24, 2018