Brianna Barker completed a remote Child & Youth Mental Health internship, with Intern Abroad HQ.

Brianna is a student focusing on Child Development and Family Studies, with a minor in Mental Health Studies. She was motivated to find an internship opportunity which would enable her to gain some experience before being required to obtain local internships during her senior year of college classes. Being passionate about children and mental health, the remote Child & Youth Mental Health internship, through Intern Abroad HQ, was a program she felt immediately drawn to.

Hi Brianna! Why did you choose to do this remote internship?

I chose Child and Youth Mental Health because I wanted to be able to examine the effects of mental health on children, especially in a specific country. This remote internship was beneficial because I was able to develop my skills in working with people to develop tools and resources to help communities in need.

I want to use my Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Studies to become a Child Life Specialist, so the skills I learned will be beneficial to me as I will work closely with families of all ethnic backgrounds to develop treatment plans and relay their concerns/ideas to the hospital.

What did you do and learn through this experience?

I worked remotely alongside a team in Jamaica to create online tools and resources for local classrooms. This experience taught me how to communicate effectively remotely, collaborate with a supervisor in another country, follow new instructions, complete assigned tasks on time, revise my projects, and learn a new program to create animations/presentations online.

This Child & Youth Mental Health internship benefits the local classrooms by providing resources such as games, posters, and worksheets for teachers to utilize in teaching children how to express and identify their emotions/feelings in a healthy way. To accompany the classroom items, I created a booklet about exploring complex emotions and a 45-minute workshop for the teachers/volunteers to use with children.

In the short term, I hope these games and other cute activities can help the children learn more about emotions they already know and learn about new emotions they may have never heard of. In the long term, I hope that everything I created can contribute toward the creation of safe spaces in classrooms where children can express their emotions to classmates and teachers and be accepted with grace, helpful resources, and - most importantly - love!

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How did you kick off this remote internship and get started with these tasks?

I had an initial meeting where I was introduced to the program and given an overview of what my role as an intern would be, as well as other valuable information about the culture and people I would be working with.

My favorite memory was at the beginning of my internship when I was able to witness a meeting with the local teachers. The interns who were finishing up (the week that I joined) were giving a presentation to a couple of local teachers and my supervisor had invited me to join and watch. This was an absolute honor and it made me so excited for the weeks ahead to brainstorm and create useful resources to hopefully benefit the local classrooms and people in Jamaica!

I was excited to see how welcoming the teachers were of the research and resources the interns had shared. The local teachers were receptive and shared valuable anecdotes and insights. Interns and the local team all have unique experiences and values, so it is amazing to see how people can come together and create a shared space to brainstorm, research, and develop resources that can benefit children and people all over the globe.

Listening to the teachers share their concerns about some of the students and what they needed from interns in this program allowed me to connect faces and people to the cause I would be working for in the upcoming weeks.

How did you communicate for the remote internship?

My internship supervisor, Jade, and I communicated via Google Meetings and WhatsApp. I would say that my supervisor and I made a clear communication plan from the beginning, so it was a smooth process throughout!

Before our first meeting, we emailed and set up a time to connect. After the first initial meeting, we would plan our next meeting during the current one we were having so that there was no confusion in trying to find a time that would fit both of our schedules through emails back and forth. I found this to be very helpful!

The communication method that I enjoyed the most was the virtual meetings. I found that it was easier for me to feel connected to my supervisor when we were in a virtual meeting because we could both see each other’s expressions, hear the tone in our voices, and share a conversation. We would address any concerns, new ideas, and research during our weekly meetings and we made sure to give each other the space and time to share what we had found.

Remote Child & Youth Mental Health internship with Intern Abroad HQ

What challenges did you need to overcome through your internship tasks?

My personal experience in classrooms is in the USA, so I wanted to educate myself on the similarities and differences between classroom environments in the USA versus Jamaica. I think that developing this cultural understanding helped me to overcome the challenge of possibly presenting research in a way that would not be beneficial for diverse classroom environments.

Many of the teachers’ concerns were regarding how the pandemic is affecting the children, so I wanted to ensure that I considered this comprehensively when I was researching and looking for ways that would assist both the children and teachers. The pandemic has affected the entire world, but through this internship, I wanted to gain a greater understanding of how it has affected (and is still affecting) people and places outside of the United States.

My advice to others would be to enter into your internship with an open mind about your role and how it will play out uniquely for you - everyone’s experience can be different.

What were some unique learning experiences?

One unique experience I encountered and enjoyed was my supervisor introducing me to local expressions in Jamaica that related to my topic. I had initially thought that they either used the same words for emotions or none at all, but I hadn’t considered that they may use expressions that mean the same thing.

For example, the expression “bad mind” in Jamaica is similar in definition to the emotion we generally identify in the English language as “jealousy”. This challenged me because explaining Jamaican expressions to Jamaicans felt very odd, but explaining how the expression connects/relates to words commonly used around the world was important. Explaining this connection was important so that everyone understood the words I used in the resources I created.

Remote Child & Youth Mental Health internship with Intern Abroad HQ

What are your key takeaways from this internship?

My biggest takeaway from this internship is that every culture has a unique view about emotions and it is so valuable to learn about these different views. We will always be surrounded by people from different backgrounds in our lives, so it is important to learn how to best help and understand everyone!

I want to become a Child Life Specialist and work with children who are being treated at a children’s hospital, so I want to be someone that makes each child and their loved ones feel comfortable, loved, and supported. This internship has made me feel empowered to be someone in my field who understands every child and family. Children’s hospitals are a place where many people come in feeling many strong emotions, so I want to be aware and understand how to best help people feeling these emotions.

This remote internship empowered me by giving me the opportunity to research the ways in which different cultures understand and view emotions. Spending time on one specific culture, specifically Jamaican culture, was great because it gave me the time to see how complex each culture’s views can be. This opened my eyes to the complexity of emotions and I feel inspired to take the time to learn about other cultures so that I can best serve different individuals.

I think that the organization in Jamaica does a wonderful job of welcoming interns and assigning them projects that will genuinely have a positive impact on the local classrooms and teachers in Jamaica.

I want to look into furthering my knowledge through the research of other cultures and their views on expressing complex emotions. I would also really love to find an in-person opportunity related to this career field so that I can apply what I learned remotely to an in-person experience. This experience was amazing in every way and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested!

Remote Child & Youth Mental Health internship with Intern Abroad HQ

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