Reflecting Upon My Clinical Psychology Internship in Zanzibar, Intern Abroad HQ

Those of us in the field of Psychology broadly, and clinical psychology specifically (or any field they are passionate about for the matter!) know that one’s learning journey truly commences when theory ends and practice starts.

For that, internships have been key for me in my attempts to pinpoint my educational gaps and direct my attention towards postgraduate routes that would be most beneficial for my desired academic and professional career paths. Through them I have learned how to operate in different clinical settings, under different practice laws and regulations, and to adapt to different situations and circumstances. All have proven to be crucial to renewing my commitment towards making continuous learning a cornerstone of my professional ethos.

Given how increasingly hard and challenging it is for us, aspiring clinical psychologists, to land such opportunities. I wanted to take a moment to share insight into my experiences, so that other students or recent graduates interested in similar opportunities can learn more.

Hi Ihssan! Why did you choose an international internship in Psychology?

Ever since my graduation, I have felt a restless need to expand my understanding of different cultural practices within my field. Starting with my mid-bachelors exchange in Rotterdam, Netherlands, then my first clinical apprenticeship at the Psychiatry and Neurology Research Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. I have tried continuously to combine educational pursuit and leisure travel to explore the efforts made within cultural psychology, as I continue to dream of the day psychologists are able to operate internationally in an informed and culture-sensitive manner.

Most recently, I wanted to redirect my attention towards my beloved continent, Africa. Hailing from its northernmost point, Morocco, I wanted to dive into the different approaches to clinical psychology practice within it. Thus, my most recent internship at the Mental Health Hospital in Zanzibar, Tanzania!

Reflecting Upon My Clinical Psychology Internship in Zanzibar, with Intern Abroad HQ

What support did you receive throughout?

Looking back at my internship, I am deeply grateful for the mentorship and supervision I received from seasoned practitioners. Their guidance, understanding and kindness were elemental in shaping this particular experience for me and have made me look forward to contributing meaningfully to the well-being of individuals and the broader mental health community!

Likewise, the assistance and help from my Program Manager at Intern Abroad HQ throughout the placement processes, and the follow-ups following, made everything so incredibly easy and manageable!

Working closely with experienced clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and different healthcare practitioners has enabled me to better grasp the various categories of practitioners that exists within our subfield and differentiate our lanes of interventions, broadening my understanding of the possible collaborative multidisciplinary approaches that can be adopted when insights from various disciplines are integrated correctly in order to provide comprehensive care and ensure a holistic approach to mental health treatment.

Reflecting Upon My Clinical Psychology Internship in Zanzibar, with Intern Abroad HQ

How were you able to refine diagnostic and/or therapeutic skills?

As a clinical psychology intern, the first hand exposure to pathologies in clinical settings has enabled me to witness the symptomatic manifestations of dissociative disorders, bipolar disorder, substance-related and addictive disorders, and schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in adult populations as well as neurodevelopmental and personality disorders in the child and infant populations.

This exposure tested my diagnostic abilities and improved my assessment sense exponentially. Whilst the granted opportunity to conduct group and co-therapy sessions, lead patient interviews and follow-up on their treatment plans in ward rounds, were essential in honing my therapeutic skills.

What was your daily schedule like as a Psychology intern in Zanzibar?

During my stay in Zanzibar, my schedule was quite rigorous. I would usually wake up around 7 AM to a lovingly prepared breakfast by my host, Mama Raya, who went out of her way to accommodate my dietary preferences, making each homemade meal something to look forward to.

By 7:40 AM, I would leave to catch the Dala Dala: the public minibus that transported me to my assigned hospital, where my days varied as I rotated between the psychiatric wards and the psychology clinics. I spent half of the week attending rounds in the adult or child psychiatric wards and the other half in consultations at the in-patient and out-patient psychology clinics.

My days would usually end around 3 or 4PM, but on days when work finished earlier, I allowed myself to get lost in the small streets of Stone Town, exploring shops, quaint coffeehouses, and charming restaurants.

Alternatively, I would return to Mama Raya’s home, which was always a warm, welcoming retreat. The house buzzed with the presence of interns from around the globe, each bringing their own stories and ambitions.

Our evenings often culminated in impromptu karaoke sessions, pizza nights at the nearby Italian/Swahili restaurants or gatherings in the student house lounge, where we’d huddle over a random soap opera CD, attempting to orchestrate a movie night. More often than not, an electricity blackout would interrupt our plans, transforming the evening into a candlelit session of storytelling and laughter.

These moments, shared with a diverse group from different walks of life, became some of my most cherished memories. In those candlelit hours, we exchanged tales of our journeys, laughed over cultural mishaps, and forged connections that proved to transcend borders a year later as we continue to plan meet ups and visits to our respective countries.

Reflecting Upon My Clinical Psychology Internship in Zanzibar, with Intern Abroad HQ

How did you spend your weekends and free time?

Each weekend was a different adventure, as I explored with fellow interns different parts of the island, we often found ourselves considering extending our stay to properly see everything. From nature’s beauty, to people’s hospitality, to the variety of water sports and excursions available, to the island’s rich history, Zanzibar has a lot to offer its respectful visitors!

What was it like staying with a host family?

I was apprehensive at first, not really knowing what to expect. However, I am glad to have opted for staying with a host family as everything turned out wonderfully. They were very accommodating, providing privacy while also allowing for opportunities to get acquainted with them and their customs.

The house was always bustling with newcomers, whether they were new students arriving for their internships, or relatives of the host family. This left little room for boredom and provided ample opportunities for socialization.

Additionally, the local organizers were very accommodating when it came to housing requests from interns who wanted to room with newfound friends or move in or out of host families. I personally didn’t feel the need to make the switch as I grew accustomed to my routine and housemates and found reassurance in the protective and motherly nature of my host, Mama Raya, but for those who find themselves apprehensive still, I say give it a try and should it not be your cup of tea there is always room to switch later on.

Reflecting Upon My Clinical Psychology Internship in Zanzibar, with Intern Abroad HQ

What recommendations do you have for others who are considering a Psychology internship abroad?

I recommend seizing every opportunity that has the potential of enhancing students’ skills as mental health care practitioners, and this internship unequivocally offers such an opportunity. It may not unfold in the way one might initially expect, but I witnessed remarkable growth in my fellow interns and myself. By the end of the internship, we emerged more aware of our own limitations and significantly less prejudiced than when we first began.

This transformative experience provided profound insights and personal growth, leaving us better equipped and more empathetic in our approach to mental health care. All further amplified by the stunning backdrop of Zanzibar’s scenery that allows one to effortlessly slip into an idyllic island summer after working hours. An undoubtedly delightful bonus!

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290+ internship programs across 26 countries

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Exclusive experiential learning curriculum

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