Students impacting our community - virtually!
Even in challenging times University of Adelaide interns are making a real difference to community wellbeing.
Helping young people has become a passion project for Psychological Sciences student Caitlin Westphal. Caitlin has been interning at the Australian not-for-profit organisation Helping Young People Achieve (HYPA) during Semester 1 2020. Creating an evidence-based handbook for mentors of young people has transformed Caitlin’s degree. ‘This has probably been the best experience of my whole degree. During this internship, I have found I really don’t care about the grade, I just care about my handbook and how it’s going to help people.’ she said.
The evidenced based handbook, weighing in at almost 200 pages, is full of practical tips and exercises to assist mentors in their work with young people. Despite interruptions caused by social distancing, Caitlin was able to complete her project remotely, with regular interactions and support from her HYPA supervisor.
'Incorporating internships into the undergraduate psychology degree has proved invaluable both for students and for the university.' says Dr Melissa Oxlad, Coordinator of the psychology internship.
‘Not only have internships allowed students to apply their knowledge and gain much wanted hands-on experience, they have enabled our students to have a meaningful impact in the community.’
Dr Oxlad added, ‘through the hard work and skill of Caitlin and two other interns, Jack and Zahni, the relationship between HYPA and the University has been strengthened enabling more interns to contribute to the important work of HYPA in the future.’
When the Adelaide University Union (AUU) wanted to create some student friendly online support services to promote student wellbeing hosting an intern was the obvious choice says Tiahna Thiele, Events and Volunteering Manager for the AUU.
For Computer Sciences intern Marie Knudson the AUU internship was the perfect fit. ‘I was so excited to find this internship as it allows me to both do work related to my degree, and contribute to improving the mental health of both myself and my fellow students through a stressful and scary time’ she said.
Marie is building a Procrastination Station that will feature the best bits of the internet including a selection of games, videos, interactive activities and more. ‘The site is meant to be a space for students to go when they need a break from studying, somewhere they can relax for a bit and have fun’ she explains. Marie’s supervisor, Tiahna Thiele says the initiative will be rolled out through the July holidays as a boredom buster concept, and then again in November as an exam support tool to encourage healthy study breaks’.
The Procrastination Station is one of the two projects Marie is working on during her internship. She is also creating a wellbeing page, Stress Less, to help students relieve stress. Students will be able to visit during busier academic times and find health focused initiatives, tips and tricks. Thiele said the Stress Less website will be a refuge and safe space which will run in line with a Stress Less event the AUU is running in Semester 2.
While completing her internship remotely has created some challenges, overall the experience has been positive.
‘Doing an internship from home has been kind of weird, but I still feel really involved in this project, and I am so excited to be able to offer it to other students.’ said Marie. Tiahna is also enthusiastic. ‘It has been fantastic to have Marie on board the team and exciting to see the development of her project ideas come to life.’
Both encourage readers to take a look when the sites go live. ‘We are hoping to collaborate as much as possible with other students to create a space that is welcoming, fun, and helpful’ says Marie. ‘Keep an eye out for her masterpieces!’ adds Tiahna.
The Procrastination Station and Stress Less websites will be launched in time for Semester 2.
Katy Dolman Internships Manager in DASE is thrilled with the imaginative ways that students and employers have adapted internships to work remotely during the pandemic. 'We’ve seen great flexibility from our students and host organisations, well supported by University staff. These are just a few examples of our students contributing to organisations and the community' she said.
In the lead-up to Semester 2, more opportunities to undertake meaningful skill development through internships will be promoted to students via CareerHub.
*Quote originally presented in SYC article, ‘Student creates valuable 20-week volunteer mentoring program’. Reproduced with permission.