"By providing me with an opportunity to expand my repertoire of experience, my internship has made me more prepared for my future career. In psychology, as in most fields, the more experience you have, the more successful you are with helping people."

Program of Study: International Relations/Spanish
Internship: Fundación Crecer
Location: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
I interned at Fundación Crecer, a school for street children in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The school observes children they see working on the street, eventually approaches them and tries to convince the child and his/her parent to come see the school. Once the child and the parent are there, the director would try to show the parent that it is more worthwhile for the child to attend school than it is for the child to sell candies on the streets to bring home a couple of extra dollars. If the child enrolled at Fundación Crecer, she was placed in Module 1 until she passed exams and moved up to Module 2 followed by Module 3. Each year completes two years worth of public school learning. Many children do not move up, but those who do complete Module 3 are ready to be enrolled in a formal school. The interns work along with the teachers of each Module helping in any  way possible. Sometimes this included working one on one with students to practice their English. Other times we assisted the children with math or science questions. One week we were able to take four children out of the classroom at a time and teach them to make friendship bracelets. While this got the children out of the classroom and gave them the opportunity to do hands-on activities, it also gave us the chance to speak to the children and get a better understanding of their lives outside of Fundación Crecer. Occasionally, we were able to teach about the different countries the interns were from, which the children absolutely loved.

How did you find your internship?
I found my internship through International Partnership for Service Learning (IPSL). When searching for a study abroad program to fulfill Goucher’s requirement, I came across its website. It had both semester and summer programs in several different countries. Each program included service learning projects that were designed to meet each student’s needs and academic interests. Through IPSL’s study abroad program in Ecuador, I was placed at Fundación Crecer based on my interests in working with vulnerable children.

Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
I chose my internship site because I plan to work with children in need of various psychological assistance.  Although I have had several different experiences working with children (at an orphanage in South Africa, a middle school in Israel and a school for refugee children in Baltimore), Fundación Crecer provided a new experience with children in need of a different type of psychological support. I wanted this chance to expand the variety of my experience working, especially with vulnerable children. It was also important to me to go to a Spanish-speaking country in order to improve my language skills.

What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
From previous experience at international organizations, I feared that Fundación Crecer would be disorganized and that I would feel unneeded or useless. Although in some ways I was correct, I was able to find ways to be helpful and productive.

What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I hoped to gain confidence in my ability to use Spanish in a psychological work setting while also learning more about child psychology through hands-on, interactive experiences. I wanted to also further develop my skills to work with vulnerable children.

How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
I don’t believe my internship experience influenced my interests/goals/plans much other than to confirm them. I have always known I wanted to work with children abroad, and my internship provided a new experience to encourage my interests. I guess it opened my mind to working in Latin America, when previously I had been more focused on Africa.

What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The lack of communication that existed between workers and between workers and interns was frustrating. It made it difficult to plan activities and execute them, which made us interns feel as though we did not accomplish as much as we wanted to.

What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
The children I worked with were fairly serious about school. Most of them were there in spite of their parents wishes that they would work instead, so they tried hard. Most of them rarely got to do things for fun, because after school, they would be sent out to work on the streets or busses. When we were able to do some arts and crafts activities with them, they were so excited and happy. Even the children who sometimes had a hard time concentrating or sitting still in class were able to sit down and focus and had fun doing it. It was great to see that these children, who had lost parts of their childhood, could still have a good time and be proud of the work they do. It was also rewarding to see that the children who had trouble in a formal classroom setting were able to focus and learn during hands-on, creative activities.

Any funny/embarrassing things happen during your internship?
Anytime you’re in a situation where you are constantly speaking something other than your first language, embarrassing moments are bound to happen. Luckily, the teacher I was working with was used to having interns whose Spanish levels were less than mine, so she let me get away with completely butchering certain sentences and words.

How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
By providing me with an opportunity to expand my repertoire of experience, my internship has made me more prepared for my future career. In psychology, as in most fields, the more experience you have, the more successful you are with helping people. I think my internship also allowed me to realize how necessary it is to take initiative when your supervisor has too much else to do to give interns specific directions. It helped me to understand that it is okay to ask questions and bring up ideas instead of waiting for someone to come to you.

What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Speak up. If you don’t feel like you’re doing what you are there to do, say something. Sometimes your supervisor just doesn’t have time to figure out what you should be doing and expects you to come up with tasks and activities. Try to stay positive because as soon as you let yourself get down about one thing, everything else seems negative.

How do you utilize the skills you developed in your internship experience in your job now?
As I just returned, I’m not sure exactly how my skills will come into practice in the future, but I expect that my developed Spanish skills will help in future work with children in Baltimore and other locations. In addition, I think having more experience will allow me to feel more confident using what I’ve learned in psychology.

Kira Silk