Caitlyn, a student from Schreiner University in Texas, recently took part in Intern Abroad HQ’s Remote Child and Youth Mental Health internship out of Jamaica. Here, she takes us behind the scenes of a remote internship and explains what it’s like to work alongside a youth development organization in Jamaica…
For this online internship, I was involved in extensive research and the development of animations and activities to help children in Jamaica understand mental health. This is an important role that provides young children with useful information to improve their day to day lives and mental wellbeing.
Settling into a virtual internship
When I first started this Psychology internship, I was nervous because it was my first time working on a remote internship. I expected that it was going to be difficult to get in contact with our project leader and that I was going to be figuring out assignments on my own. I was also expecting the culture shock to be overwhelming.
However, the first week went really well. I thought that we were only going to meet once and then be expected to jump right into the first assignment, but we actually met twice and had lots of time to discuss what topic we wanted to begin with and really go over any instructions we would need.
Working towards my career goals
My long-term goal is to work in children’s health, and this internship position has given me the opportunity to gain more experience in working with kids. Working with children’s health is very different to working with adults, so it requires a specific skill set. Understanding how to adjust research to information that can be modified into something that a child can understand is an important skill that can be applied to my career path.
Understanding mental health can be a challenge for adults, so imagine how hard it is for a young child to understand it! Many children could possibly find relief from mental health issues with the help of actually understanding what they are feeling. It is our job to take a challenging subject, such as understanding loneliness and coping, and turn it into something that a young mind can benefit from.
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My favorite memory
My favorite memory from this online internship was creating my first educational video and sharing it with the group. I was given the task of creating an educational video for children aged between 11 and 12, on ways to cope with loneliness. It was at the beginning of the internship and was my first task to complete. It was a big challenge for me, as I didn’t have any prior experience in creating animations, but I was excited to figure it out.
I conducted research on the topic and prepared a list of coping mechanisms with explanations. After hours of piecing clips together and inputting clear and concise information, my video was complete. I watched it a few times and fixed mistakes, but I was still very nervous to show the group because I wasn’t sure if it was actually any good.
During our virtual meeting that week, I was able to play the video and receive feedback. After we all watched it, I was very happy to hear that everyone loved it and that it was very well done. I felt proud of the work I submitted and felt accomplished to have been successful at my first attempt of creating an animation for our target audience. It was a good start to what turned out to be a great internship!
Improving my time management skills
During my internship, I expanded my skills in time management and prioritization. As a full time student, time management is very important to keep organized. Between weekly meetings with my online internship, as well as research and the creation of activities, I had many responsibilities to uphold.
While it was a challenge at first, improvement was seen when a system of a set number of days to complete my work was planned. We found the most success in giving two days for research and three days for creating activities that will then be passed onto the teachers in the local community. This taught me that prioritizing my time is key when it comes to high quality work.
The power of communication
I learned a significant amount of communication skills throughout this virtual internship. It has taught me to be vocal during meetings and express my own opinions and ideas. I learned that it is great to be able to have an open conversation with my team and that it will lead to more success in the end.
Communication skills are important in the work environment and I knew that I needed to grow more in that area. While I was nervous at the start, I still did my best to speak up and communicate. As I got more comfortable, I could see myself learning how to communicate better with this project.
Another learning point I had was to appreciate critiques on my work. Rather than being nervous about someone’s critiques, I learned to be excited to get feedback on how the work could be better. I found myself being happy when I got feedback on my creations and was able to use it to improve the quality of my next task. I used to be scared that my peers would not like my work, but I now really appreciate the feedback I get because it helps me learn and grow more.
How to communicate effectively online
Throughout my remote internship, I learned to keep a notebook with me to write down any questions which arose while listening to our project leader. Because we usually met at least once a week, it was very important to get any questions answered during our project calls. If we needed help with anything outside of the online meetings, emails were always welcome. However, since our online communication during meetings was very successful, we didn’t need to exchange many emails.
For me, the most memorable moment during the beginning of the internship was talking to Jade (our Supervisor) during our meetings. When we were finished discussing the topic, she was sure to ask us if we had any questions or concerns that she could help straighten out. The strong communication during the first week set a solid foundation for success during future meetings.
Building cross-cultural understanding
I did not experience as much culture shock as I was expecting. Jade was very thorough in making sure we discussed some cultural differences and stressed the importance of doing extra research.
There is a big difference in what is acceptable regarding mental health, which has been tough to understand. I had to do a bit more research into the culture of Jamaica to understand that many parents do not speak to their children about mental health, so it then becomes an issue that goes unnoticed.
Working as part of an internship team
My team worked well together to identify our strengths and determine the best ways to divide up tasks in order to maximize our productivity. We were given the opportunity to test our skills in research and creating activities for the children and found out who worked best on each task.
We split the work up evenly, so one student was working on research and another worked on animations and worksheets. Getting in contact with our project leader was very easy and she was wonderful at responding to any questions we had regarding our roles.
What’s next for my career…
From here, I would like to acquire another internship in the field of public health. I have grown so much from this 5 week online internship and I would like to continue this progress as much as I can before getting my masters after graduation. An in-person experience is the next goal for me to complete.
I am hoping that I see as much success during my next internship as I did with this one. I’d like to challenge myself to grow more as a leader in my next role and continue to practice good communication. I have learned many new things from my experience in college, and I hope that I continue to set my future up for success. I am excited for what is to come!
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