Year of Graduation: 2017
Internship: Family Focused Intern at Washburn Center for Children
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process?
I discovered the internship on the Minnesota Nonprofit Job Board-this website was a helpful resource that I found using CSB/SJU Career Services. After finding the position on the job board, I visited Washburn's website and applied for the internship. I submitted a resume and cover letter, and was interviewed. I recommend applying as early as you can. The coordinator for the internship was attending an upcoming MN Nonprofit Job and Internship Fair, so by applying early, I was able to get my application reviewed and make the personal connection earlier.
What were some of the internship highlights?
I formed meaningful relationships with the preschool clients, the other student intern, and the two classroom clinicians (who were Marriage and Family therapists). Whether attending to small groups or individuals one-on-one, I felt like I was helping the preschool clients learn healthier social, emotional, and behavioral skills. I enjoyed being perceived as a figure that could provide stability, trust, respect, and consistency-qualities that the preschool clients may not experience from figures in their home lives. Another highlight of the internship was facilitating arts and crafts activities, water days, and playground time. Since it was a summer internship, I felt that I connected with the preschoolers over exciting activities that still provided opportunities to intervene and observe their development, yet in an environment that was also creative and engaging.
What was a typical day like? What were some of your major responsibilities/projects?
A typical day involved setting up the classroom with the appropriate supplies for the day and preparing snacks for the preschoolers. I would then assist the classroom clinicians in retrieving the preschoolers from their shuttles that arrived in the morning. I would then spend time with the preschoolers on the playground until group time. During group time, the clinicians, interns, and preschoolers would talk about themes such as transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, "growing up", and "going-away and coming-back" (in the context of the preschoolers themselves and their caregivers). We also would read a book that was relevant to the topic. After group time, I helped explain the daily routine and rules at Washburn, to provide the preschoolers with structure and predictability of how the rest of the day was going to happen.
After group time was snack, free-play, and art time, where I helped the preschoolers to display appropriate social behaviors such as sharing, taking turns, and respecting personal space and boundaries. After art, I helped to provide a smooth transition as the preschoolers left Washburn to return to their shuttles and depart. I helped clean up the classroom with the other intern and classroom clinicians, and we held a debriefing session. During debriefing, this was our chance to talk about things that happened during the day, ask questions about interpreting the preschoolers' interactions with us, and our feelings about how the internship experience was going.
Outside of classroom time, I helped create "Goodbye Books" for when the preschoolers eventually leave Washburn. This was like a scrapbook where I put together photos of the preschool client and captions about their experiences and progress at Washburn, as a way to show that "goodbyes" can be positive.
What were some of the challenges of your internship?
A challenge of the internship was facilitating transitions between activities, because many of the preschoolers came with "predictably unpredictable" attitudes towards transitions. In their home lives, many of the preschoolers had faced frequent and unanticipated transitions among caregivers, or figures they were not familiar with. Therefore, this fear and anxiety would transfer to their reactions regarding transitions at Washburn (such as transitioning between activities). At times, I found it difficult to calm the preschooler down because they were not in a rational state of mind. Emotionally, it was tough at times to see the impact of trauma and family stress that the preschoolers expressed in their interactions with me.
What did you learn? How has this internship impacted your plans for after graduation?
I learned about the importance of trying out ideas without over-thinking them. At Washburn, I liked how the internship emphasized learning through experience-there was less emphasis on whether or not I came with the accurate "textbook knowledge", and instead, more emphasis on curiosity. While I could speculate based on my knowledge from my psychology courses, I found that I learned the most from trial and error experiences with the preschoolers. Because people are not always predictable, I learned the importance of just trying out my ideas and then reflecting on the responses. This allowed me to invest all of my energy into the particular interaction I was attending to, and remain present in the moment. By asking questions, brainstorming, and "diving in", I received a richer and more profound experience.
Regarding plans for after graduation, interning at Washburn helped solidify my desire to work in the field of clinical social work. I also want to pursue working with young children and their families. I think it is important to intervene early in a child's life, because they have a strong chance for making lasting changes in their outlook and trust of others. I also like the holistic approach that social work takes. Even if my client is a preschooler, I will still get to interact with their family, which adds greater understanding of the complexity of highly stressed families. I plan on applying for a MSW degree with a clinical concentration.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships?
Take advantage of the various ways of obtaining internships. From conducting informational interviews with someone in the field to attending networking events to maintaining a current LinkedIn profile, there are many ways to network and get your foot into your field of interest. Besides creating connections with people in the field, having a strong resume, cover letter, and interview skills are important when applying for an internship. Strong preparation involves not only being knowledgeable about the position, but also being able to identify with the agency's values and goals. Also, approach the internship with an open mind-each internship is a learning experience where you can reflect on the experience and how it helps to inform your future goals.