“This program bridged so many gaps I had in my academic and personal lives”– The Reflections of an Intern
The urge “to learn” means differently to everyone; it could be a habit, a fleeting thought, a moment of excitement, or a simple need. The counterpart of learning, “doing”, has even more interpretations; to practice what you’ve learned, to think of what you hear, and to simply do what intrigues you. While learning comes in many forms, my time at the CAFS taught me that its possibilities become endless when your mentors are open to acting in your best interests.
The three-month internship at CAFS found me as I was in the final month of my undergraduate degree, a rather hectic time to commit to a program, however, I decided to take it on. The internship consisted of weekly seminars conducted by the team at CAFS and electives, often led by guest speakers. Towards the end of the three months, the focus of the work shifted to a “Suicide Awareness Campaign” we conducted in September 2021 and a “Personal Project” of the intern’s choosing. I was thankful for being able to learn much, so I decided to document the thoughts of multiple interns and my own to remember this program.
“I was able to get a taste of many areas in the field”– Program structure and its’ implications
The internship program required a certain degree of prerequisite knowledge in psychology, however, to many, it was foundational, introducing the interns to many aspects of the field. It offered the opportunity to expand and refresh knowledge and had a good balance between theoretical and experiential learning. The sessions explored a wide array of topics, breaking down complex concepts, thus making them easier to digest and work on.
The program was also a great place for networking as not only did the team at CAFS come from a diverse background, but each guest speaker was also unique in their own right. They were able to share snapshots of their work and put through their experiences transparently enough to give the interns an honest idea of the challenges they face as professionals. The interns were able to explore different areas of interest, and the interactive bits of the sessions allowed us to explore our like-mindedness. The sessions also provided the opportunity to clarify thought-provoking questions and discuss options for future academic endeavors.
“We all learned something different”– A glimpse of the learning experience.
The internship offered a rewarding learning experience. Starting off from structuring a resume to writing a cover letter, working on mental health advocacy, and exclusive personal projects, each task was a major perk many interns got to experience for the first time.
CAFS was able to cater to each of the intern’s individual needs. And their unique set of values, which encouraged networking, building relations, while using the resources at CAFS to further our own interests and ideas, only showed their dedication to enrich us and contribute to the field of Psychology in Sri Lanka. For instance, since the very first day, we were urged to bring in any proposals and projects ideas, we had in mind, but we were unable to carry out on our own. Over the course of the three months, many of these ideas became the motivation for our personal projects.
Furthermore, the CAFS team was very supportive, and they were always contactable to delve into any topics discussed during the sessions, have a chat on other ideas we may have or for an honest and sincere career-related conversation. The team strived to identify “gaps in our knowledge” and accommodate each of our needs, addressing any concerns we had about the program, they were the right balance between warm and professional, thus ensuring a smooth relationship and quality work.
Most importantly CAFS trusted us with responsibilities that we wouldn’t have trusted ourselves with, they made sure that we were challenged at every opportunity but were always there to help when needed. For instance, the Suicide Awareness Campaign was a brand-new experience for many interns, and while it was daunting at first, we realized that we could never work towards the frontlines of our fields without being courageous. These opportunities helped develop a multitude of new skills such as content creation and designing for social media, which put the interns in unfamiliar territory, with much to learn.
“I always wanted to do it, and this time I did”– Fulfilling our individual needs
Every intern had unique needs of their own, and every step of the way the internship offered a learning opportunity for everyone to exploit. For interns who had just finished their degree and were looking at entering the workforce, this opportunity was a great stepping stone, as the commitment was optimal to experience what the different roles in the field would look like under the guidance of experts while exercising a certain degree of flexibility.
Many of the interns appreciated the hands-on learning experience in relation to the Suicide Awareness Campaign, which the interns had to rely on each other to complete. Even though the interns didn’t know one another initially, the short interactions between the routine seminars in breakout rooms led to familiarisation, preparing us for the upcoming campaign task as teams. While each of us was comfortable working individually, working alongside a team, allowed us to see how each of us brought different strengths to the table. And as we learned from each other we found ourselves taking the lead in our own way, creating action-based solutions, being decisive in times of need, and reflecting on the step beyond simply taking information and learning.
As the 3 months come to an end, I reflect on my growth and the depth of knowledge I will be taking from this program, but the most important aspect of the internship has been the opportunities, which tested my limits and propelled me further in my career. In a way, I will only keep rediscovering and learning what this internship has led to unfold in my life, as I accomplished something beyond learning, and that was, making a handful of good friends driven by the similar motives which drive me.
This piece is a compilation of the thoughts of the interns; Khizra Ameen, Rehan Meemaduma, Senali Amarasinghe, and Shamima Zulkifli.
29th August 2021.