Group from USC Upstate will Learn First-Hand about Refugees’ Plight

May 9, 2017 at 9:18 am

University of South Carolina Upstate students in two disciplines will soon have the chance to learn first-hand how German officials are handling the influx of refugees into their country.

Plans are in the works to expand a partnership between the University of South Carolina Upstate and Hochschule Landshut, the University of Applied Science in Landshut, Germany, to include an annual exchange of students in the criminal justice and child-advocacy-studies disciplines.

The idea came after some preliminary discussions with visiting instructors from the German university, according to Dr. Samantha Hauptman, chair of the Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Women’s Studies Department, and assistant professor of criminal justice.

“We realized there were a lot of things that we want to do,” Hauptman said recently. “So we said why don’t we bring students into it, and do an exchange program, so that we can work with refugees on their end, and on this end, the students will work with our jail inmates and other community agencies.”

Dr. Lynn McMillan, USC Upstate instructor, child advocacy studies, has teamed up with Hauptman on this end to make the program a reality. The pair will leave May 23 for Hochschule Landshut, where they will meet with their counterparts to hammer out details of the exchange program.

McMillan said she hopes the program will give students from each country an understanding of the social issues the two countries face.

“I want to go to the courts while we’re over there, and visit some community agencies that do some human-services work, as well as the refugee camp and the juvenile detention center (in Landshut) to see the difference in how they treat juveniles in another country,” McMillan explained. “And then when the German students come here, we want to do the reciprocal – prison, (Department of Juvenile Justice), and the family courts, so they can see what happens here.”

Both McMillan and Hauptman stressed the importance to students of seizing the opportunity to study abroad.

“Having the practical experience of providing direct services to refugees is pretty spectacular,” Hauptman said. “But learning about other cultures, broadening (students’) horizons, doing comparative studies and even a bit of language study: Travel provides some of the best educational experiences.”

Students should be able to gain an appreciation of the different ways in which the two countries deal with similar issues, McMillan said.

“They’ll get to compare systems such as social services, criminal justice,” she said.

Germans “have a really good, strong social work mentality in their society,” Hauptman continued. “The way they treat their young people and their juveniles is quite different from ours, and that contrast, I think, is important to see. It’s a very different approach. As much as ours works, we have our flaws, and theirs works too and they have their flaws, so it’s interesting to see that there is no perfect system.”

The exchange program is scheduled to begin in September, when a group of German students visit USC Upstate. Then, during the 2018 Maymester, a group of USC Upstate students studying criminal justice or child advocacy will visit Landshut for two weeks.

The exchange groups will comprise between 10-15 students from each country, McMillan said.