If you’re looking to gain experience exploring and supporting the complex needs of a community’s most vulnerable, then a Social & Community Development internship in New Zealand is for you! We spoke to Sarah Osmond, who interned abroad to gain unique hands-on experience. Read on to gain insight into her experience and advice for future interns.
Hi Sarah! Tell us about your internship in New Zealand - what were you involved in?
My internship placement was with a New Zealand youth disability provider. It provides a wide range of social and recreational programs for youth with intellectual disabilities and the participants range from 10 to 35 years old with diverse needs.
As a psychology student, I had the opportunity to work with kids with learning disabilities, and this internship was my first-hand professional experience working in that setting. I was able to fit in well because of my background studies and other volunteer work I did during my academic years.
My role was to support the participants with learning disabilities and help them reach their potential and encourage them when feeling down. I assisted with providing emotional and physical support to the participants in the program.
Furthermore, helping with cooking, cleaning, and other practical duties during the day or overnight trips. We did activities that included kayaking, rock climbing, water obstacle courses, scuba diving, bowling, beach day, visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set, strawberry picking, and many more. As for practical skills, they got involved with knife skills, prepping the meal, and cooking it. They even got their chutney products for others to buy! This allowed them to be independent and practice the skills they already possess.
What motivated you to invest in this internship opportunity?
This was an opportunity to explore and understand a new place with a fresh perspective. After graduating, I wanted to pursue my master’s, but things didn’t go as planned during Covid-19. However, during my break, I learned more about myself and saw my purpose in life. This led me to an internship with kids in a professional and learning environment.
I chose this particular internship program with Intern Abroad HQ because I wanted to get hands-on experience and work with children as my profession (once I have obtained my Ph.D. in Clinical and Child Psychology). I want to be engaging with youth professionally, and this internship enabled me to perform to the best of my ability.
The skills gained in this journey were adaptability and professional experience that will help me in my next step for the future. Overall, I got to work in my desired field with kids and help them emotionally/physically.
Did you have a certain expectation going into this internship?
The only expectation I had at the beginning of this journey was related to the help I needed to get familiar with my accommodation and the whereabouts of my office/work. However, things get better once you figure things out and make friends because you can ask for help when confused. Naturally, it’s a little hard in the beginning but give it time, as things fall into place!
Did you experience any challenges that you had to overcome?
I did not encounter problems during my internship placement because the environment was open and people were understanding. Even if there were different opinions and views, they were all respected, and no one was degraded for what they stood for. Everyone understood that we were working with kids and young adults, so things were approached professionally and sensitively. Thus, respecting the participants’ and colleagues’ opinions.
What were some of the cultural differences you observed?
I noticed that people are more relaxed and casual in their way of dressing, which shows comfortability and an easy-going attitude. The other staff and interns were easy to approach and communicate with. The environment was not stressful, but welcoming and relaxing (especially when you start somewhere new).
What were the highlights of this experience for you?
I loved it all! The experience with the kids was special, and the staff was understanding and helpful. Every day was different and involved various activities that made the journey memorable. My proudest accomplishment would be that the participants were comfortable engaging with me and were not afraid to open up when they required assistance.
What were your most significant learning points from this internship?
The key learnings I will carry with me from my internship are that individuals have different ways of coping with life, and I need to understand them and help them in the best way possible that would uplift them.
I learned that if any new adventure is thrown at you, you should not shy away from it, but we should try - even if we are scared. During my internship placement, this mentality also provided role modelling for children, who could be led by a positive example.
This experience taught me that a disability is nothing when young people have the passion and desire to complete a task. It was amazing to witness that and be part of that community.
What advice would you give to other interns who want to intern in Auckland?
Keep an open mind, be ready to learn new ways of living, and appreciate the challenges and possible learnings. Also, ask questions along the way and allow others to help when you are struggling. It will seem challenging, but things will begin to settle down. You get used to a new way of living. By the end of the experience, you will carry some cultural differences, which could be a part of you in the future.
The main question I asked myself during the program was, “how can I help and be more engaging with the participants?” This approach enabled me to be prepared, present, and involved in every little part of my placements.
Ready to plan your own internship? Here’s how to started!
Our step-by-step guide on how it works provides you with more information on how to get started. The process is user friendly - just submit your application to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and won’t take more than 5 minutes. However, your formal expression of interest provides the foundation for us to help you take the next steps.