This chapter focuses on service user and carer involvement in an international exchange programme at a UK university. It looks back at the accumulated experience of service users, students and academics over the past decade and discusses the opportunities and obstacles that arise in developing a partnership model of international exchange. While the focus here is on social work, our experience suggests this commitment to international exchange incorporating a partnership model of working together with service users and carers provides a strong foundation for developing critical self-awareness and an anti-oppressive practice which can be applied to a health or social work setting. In 2008 a teaching team of two academics, two service users and two carers went with a group of 19 social work students from a UK university to a university in Rotterdam on a pilot international exchange trip. The mutual learning that took place during this trip provided a basis for developing a more critical and complex understanding of social work – its purpose and its responsibilities. Reflective learning journals completed by participants (service users and carers as well as students and academics) upon their return revealed a much greater level of insight and empathy in relation to ‘others’ than is usually displayed by students following more traditional approaches to social work education.
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