Children's Experience of War and Trauma


This four-week, six-credit program examines children's experiences of war and trauma from psychological and brain development perspectives with a specific emphasis on the developmental consequences of living in conflict-ridden environments in both historical and current contexts. While the risk of adversity and trauma is examined, the course will emphasize opportunities to promote resilience in children and families exposed to war, trauma, and crisis.  Resilience, based on principles of neuroplasticity and through high-quality relationships, will be examined as will evidenced-based approaches including trauma-Informed care, Trauma-focused CBT, and expressive helping strategies, including art and music, for promoting mental health and brain development.

You will spend the first two weeks of the course in Pittsburgh. The first part of the course will include coursework, cultural events, workshops, guest presenters, and site visits in Pittsburgh to agencies supporting refugee and immigrant populations with a focus on community-engaged learning, and positive social interactions with at risk youth.  As such, students will need to leave campus (usually via carpool) to engage with refugee and immigrant youth in their communities. You will gain an understanding of how the impact of war and displacement affects children and families in your own community and the positive impact that you can have by supporting these communities through compassion, action, and advocacy.

The second two weeks of the course will take place in London, UK. The UK is at the forefront of dealing with the current refugee crisis and, specifically, unaccompanied children who have fled their country without the care and protection of their parents. Unaccompanied children traveling through Europe alone are at high risk and often arrive in their destination feeling disoriented, confused, and alone. In London you will engage in a variety of experiences designed to enhance your understanding of the impact of war on children from historical perspectives as well as international approaches to helping refugee and immigrant youth.  Also, in London, you will engage in a variety of cultural experiences designed to enhance your capacity for reflection, personal growth, and cultural humility.

Please note that you must have completed Intro to Neuroscience OR Intro to Biopsychology AND EITHER Intro to Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology or Foundations of Infant Mental Health in order to participate in this program.

In addition to several educational site visits, the program includes excursions and cultural activities including:

  • Tour of Westminster Abby
  • Tower of London
  • West-end Theatre
  • Harry Potter Studios
  • Thames River Cruise and trip to Greenwich
  • Visit to Oxford or Cambridge
  • Food Tour of East End
  • Jack the Ripper Walking Tour

All the excursions and activities are COVID-19 restrictions permitting and are subject to change.


What You'll Accomplish: 
As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to:
  • Understand the psychological and developmental consequences of war and trauma in both historical and current contexts
  • Recognize the symptoms and signs of stress and trauma as exhibited by young children 
  • Examine intervention techniques for families and resiliency factors that reduce consequences of adversity and trauma in children

Intercultural Learning Objectives:

  • Develop cultural self-awareness and knowledge of cultural worldview frameworks (Knowledge);
  • Develop an understanding of cultural differences in verbal and nonverbal communication styles and learn to successfully adapt in various presented cultural contexts (Skills);
  • Develop the ability to engage and learn from perspectives and experiences different from one’s own (Skills);
  • Learn to exercise curiosity and openness in interactions with other cultures (Attitudes);
  • Develop transferrable and personal leadership skills (Skills, Attitudes). 

Learning objectives are based on the AAC&U VALUE rubrics for Global Learning and Intercultural Knowledge and Competence


If your first thoughts of London are the Royal Family and Downton Abbey, prepare to be blown away. English history and culture are juxtaposed against streets lined with Indian restaurants and Chinese New Year celebrations. The birthplace of the English language is now home to speakers of more than 30 other languages – and that is not counting the variety of English accents you will hear. Skyscrapers tower over 17th-century buildings while Big Ben overlooks the River Thames. Study abroad in London and you find yourself constantly surprised by what you discover in one of the world’s most diverse and global cities.
Where You'll Live: 

You will live in shared apartments spread across the city. While apartments are as varied as the city of London itself and no two residence are alike, all of them are located in safe neighborhoods and secure buildings. 

 You can expect the following:
  • Shared bedrooms (2/bedroom)
  • Bedding
  • Shared bathroom
  • Shared kitchen 
  • Internet access
  • Coin operated laundry 
Please note that meals are not included in the program fee.
You will receive your address, roommate information, and neighborhood description about 2 weeks before your departure for London.
We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions.
What You'll Study: 

You will take 2 courses for 6 credits. The War and Children course is cross-listed between PSYED and PSY departments, so you will be enrolled in either PSYED 1089 or PSY 1050. In addition, you will take NROSCI 1045.

If you are seeking to count these courses towards a major, minor or certificate requirement, please meet with your respective advisor to discuss the program and what the courses will fulfill for you.

Brain Development and Early Life Stress  (NROSCI1045)

This course examines the impact of early life stress on brain development. Specific topics include an overview of brain development, the HPA axis, brain circuitry underlying threat detection and fear responses, epigenetic mechanisms, and the role of caregiver-child interactions. This hybrid course includes online content, lecture, and a study abroad experience

Special Topics: War and Children (PSY1050)

War and terrorism affect all who are exposed to these traumatic experiences, including children.  This course will provide students with an opportunity to learn more about the psychological impact of conflict and adversity on young children and their development.  We will explore the importance of environmental supports, especially caretaking behavior and the role of attachment in resilience and coping.  Interventions for children and families exposed to trauma will be examined. 

War and Children (PSYED1089)

War and terrorism affect all who are exposed to these traumatic experiences, including children.  This course will provide students with an opportunity to learn more about the psychological impact of conflict and adversity on young children and their development.  We will explore the importance of environmental supports, especially caretaking behavior and the role of attachment in resilience and coping.  Interventions for children and families exposed to trauma will be examined. 

The University of Pittsburgh partners with the CAPA the Global Education Network for this program. For more than 45 years CAPA: The Global Education Network has worked with institutions of higher education to build programs that meet their goals for learning abroad. CAPA operates education centers in Global Cities and have developed distinct academic offerings, support frameworks, and oversight structures for students and visiting faculty.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Oksana Stalczynski

Privet! I'm Oksana Stalczynski and I'm an Assistant Director of Study Abroad at the Global Experiences Office. I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, was an exchange student and Russian Language Scholar at Reed College in Portland, OR and did a summer language program in Dresden, Germany. Global experiences broaden your horizon, grow your circle of friends and improve your career opportunities. That’s why I think everyone should do one!

Feel free to contact me to find out more about global experiences programs at Pitt, and/or to learn/practice some Russian.


Schedule an appointment

  • Click here to schedule an appointment with me through Pathways.
  • Log into Pathways with your Pitt username and password.
  • Select Find Available Time.
  • Select the time that works for you.
  • Click the schedule button
  • You will see a confirms message on the screen. You will also receive a confirmation in your Pitt email.

Don't see a time that works for you? Just send me an email.

Your In-Country Contacts: 

Dr. Robert Gallen

Dr. Gallen is a Licensed Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology.  Hereceived his BA from Bucknell University and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky.  He completed his pre-doctoral internship at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas and his post-doctoral fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  He has been Endorsed at the Infant Mental Health-Mentor level by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health.  He has been a professor of psychology for over 20-years at Georgetown College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Chatham University, and now serves as the Coordinator for MS programs in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.  Prior to accepting this new role, he collaborated with various institutions in Western Pennsylvania to develop a certificate and two graduate programs in Infant Mental Health.  His recent research has focused on the professional development needs of Part C Early Intervention providers and assessing the relationship between attachment, stress and cortisol levels in infants living in high-risk circumstances. He has served on several advisory boards for regional agencies and the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. He is the founding president of the Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health (PA-AIMH) and a ZERO TO THREE Fellow. He currently teaches graduate and undergraduate level courses including Developmental Psychopathology, Infant Mental Health, War and Children, and Family Dynamics. 

Dr. Jennifer Willford

Jennifer Willford, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Slippery Rock University.  At SRU, she is the program director for Neuroscience and Pre-professional Studies in Psychology and serves as the assistant director of the University’s Honors program. She teaches courses such as statistics, research methods, neuroscience, health psychology and positive psychology.

She earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Experimental Psychology at the University of Kentucky and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Psychiatric Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Willford has extensive experience teaching in an international context and traveling with students and has earned certification in global engagement as a high impact teaching practice. She served as a visiting professor through the SUNY Buffalo Research Foundation program in Psychology at the Singapore Institute of Management, and has led STEM themed study abroad trips to Prague, London, and Amsterdam.

Dr. Willford is passionate about working with students to develop life-long learning and research skills. Her teaching promotes active learning through innovative pedagogy and technology, global learning perspectives, and research. She believes that learning is a collaborative process and values the relationships she builds with students in and out of the classroom setting.

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Program Cost $5,699 $5,899
Study Abroad Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $5,999 $6,199

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare ~$1,500
Meals and Personal Expenses ~$1,000 


Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad. Visit our Budgeting page for more information.


What's Included: 
As a part of your program fee, the following are included:
  • Tuition for 6 credits
  • Shared accommodations in London
  • Academic site visits in London 
  • Excursions and cultural activities
  • International Health Insurance
What Else You Need to Know: 

You must have completed Intro to Neuroscience OR Intro to Biopsychology AND EITHER Intro to Developmental Psychology or Abnormal Psychology in order to participate in this program.

All students participating on CAPA programs will be required to have been vaccinated for COVID-19

You will need to get clearances in order to participate in the program. We will provide more detailed information to accepted students.