Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
When you imagine the setting of a student internship it is usually that of a timid hopeful, tucked away in some office cubicle, cut off from the true excitement and grandeur of the job they hope to one day possess.
But for a group of students in their final year of the BECE program their internship took them beyond an office cubicle and all the way to South Africa.
This was the first time that that an international option for an internship was offered and according to Associate Professor Dr. Mary-Louise Vanderlee there were some very specific goals for the international internship.
“The goals of the international internship option were to have an international early childhood education experience, to collaborate in education programs on site, to have a cultural immersion experience and to have an international community experience with other students,” she said. “The actual goal of the final year internship is to reflect on the intersection of program content, knowledge and skills, ethics and standards of practice of the college of Early Childhood Educations and/or college of Teachers, in light of the breadth of practices in the field of early childhood education.”
Overall there were nine students who travelled to Potchefstroom, North West Province in South Africa and participated in a tightly-packed agenda which included: meeting North-West University students and faculty associated with the foundation phase; visiting a variety of public, private, and remedial schools all catering to young children; and visiting low resourced preschools in the Ikagen Township with teachers who have little to no teacher education.
After the students had the opportunity to visit the four township preschools, they selected the one where they wished to complete their internship. During their first full day of observation, the students compiled a list of resources they could purchase with funding provided by the Dean’s Office in the Faculty of Education at Brock. They used the resources to plan activities that could be implemented as a way to enrich the preschool children’s learning experiences. Over the remainder of the week, the BECE students continued to assist the classroom teachers in reorganizing the classrooms to optimize access to existing and new resources in the schools. The BECE students also were given roles to play in the Wednesday workshops delivered by a volunteer associated with the Dinaladi Trust. This non-profit trust raises money to build schools and train teachers to provide the township children with educational and care opportunities they would not otherwise experience. The time spent at the township schools were noted by each of the BECE students as moments that have forever changed their lives.
“It really stretches students to a point where they either love or hate the experience,” said Vanderlee. “Luckily all of the students who participated are speaking highly about their experience and many of the BECE students are suggesting that it has forever changed them on every level: physically, mentally and spiritually – in the broadest sense. Several have already expressed a desire to return and continue with the work they started.”
Vanderlee also notes that providing an international internship option puts students in a context which really helps them reflect deeply to engage in ways that are thoughtful and considerate of diverse contexts; allowing for an understanding of what it means to optimize the use of resources and to be flexible in programming and connecting to children who they do not share a common language with.
Experiences abroad come with memories that last a life time and opportunities that come along but only a few times in a lifetime. For the nine students who travelled to South Africa, Vanderlee has no doubt that the internship will have an impact on their careers as they move forward.
“I believe that the international internship will have an enduring influence on whatever the BECE students choose to do in the future.”
For more information on the BECE program, please click here.