Leave UR Mark spoke with former intern Sonia from the United States about our psychology internships in India devoted to children who have autism and special needs.
Sonia comes from a background in mental health and therapy and got share her creative ideas with the children, parents and staff at the rehabilitation center. Let’s learn about Sonia’s experience interning abroad with us in one of our psychology internships.
What was a typical day like for you in your psychology internship?
My typical day at the office was well let’s put it this way, you are always learning something new about the children and it was always fun! I would come in around 9 am starting off with the children doing their daily prayers and ending the day at around 4 pm doing play therapy with the younger kids. I worked Monday-Friday at Tamahar Trust, a school for children of ages from 2-16, where all the children had different disabilities. In the mornings usually from 9 am-12 pm , I would work with children who were mentally at the ages of 6-8 (physically they were ages from 8-11).
It was known as the advanced level of “school”. We would start off asking the kids daily life activity questions, like what is the weather and date today, what time is it, what did they do last night or over the weekend, what did you eat this morning or bring to lunch, etc. Starting at around 930am, I would go over math, English, and sciences. From 12:00-12:30 pm, there was lunch.
The kids ate together outside, and the parents ate another table supervising them interact with one another. From 1230-1pm, there was handwriting, alphabet, and spelling class in Kanada (the language of Bangalore) for the advanced “school” children. From 1-130 pm, there was recess where the kids either went to the park, learned to play different sports, or had planting therapy. From 1:30-3:00 pm, there was either yoga, music, or dance therapy on different days and split up in groups. Each group had to wait their turn to go into the therapy class, so while waiting they played board games or had activities that helped memory or learning skills.
What were your impressions of living and interning abroad in India?
I love India with a passion. It’s a developing country, but there is still a lot that is developed. There are so many places to see, like Goa, the Taj Mahal, New Delhi, Jaipur, Pondicherry, Mumbai, and thousands of temples and other cities. I could go on and on about the different places to see in India, it is by far one of the most coolest and friendliest countries there are. Not to mention there are dogs everywhere (but beware not all are friendly or have their rabies shot). Special education in India is great!
The way Tamahar Trust was run was excellent. The founder was an occupational therapist and she had two special education teachers that worked in advanced “school”. Mental health is a big issue in India, and there’s not a lot of people who can understand them or know how to help them. Some kids have more than one disorder or disability, I was lucky enough to witness this and help them.
What is daily life like in India?
I would definitely say prepare to take showers in a bathroom that there is no shower curtain or anything, it is just a shower head and a drain. Prepare yourself to be open-minded because you will be in a developing country and a lot of things are different. When you are crossing roads, prepare to always be alert and quick. Drivers are bumper to bumper normally and drive in any lane and there are normally no stop lights, so you have to cross at your own risk. Last but not least, prepare to not eat a lot of meat. India is mostly vegetarians, and they don’t kill cows.
How can interns and volunteers get the most from interning abroad in India?
I would have to say the first lesson I learned is that parents are very strict with their children. I had to learn to be very stern with the children, and to be very dominant. The mothers would slap or grab strongly onto their kids if they were doing something wrong.
One child had a disorder where he could not understand that hitting, pulling hair, or grabbing people was wrong so if he was to do something to you, you would do it back. The teachers strictly enforced that on me to be very strong with the kids because otherwise they won’t learn whats wrong. Another lesson is that the people in India are very serious about their work. When interning, your boss will know you want to travel, but as they put it “you get what you want from it: you can either put in the work or you can go have fun, but you won’t get what you came to look for.”
I for one went to work everyday and tried not to skip out on days to travel because I was seriously looking into the experience and knowledge I would gain from the internship. However, I do know some that would skip a week to travel, and there boss would barely give them any work because they know that they weren’t serious about the internship. So that said, if you come to intern, prepare to intern and they will give you all the work you want.
But if you plan to have other priorities first, then you won’t get what you’re looking for from the internship. Third is that you are going to work with people from all social classes. For me at least, I had kids from the lowest social class to the highest social class. It was a great experience to see the differences in their lives and families. You learn to appreciate a lot in your life from wherever you come from, from the smallest to biggest things.
Is this an important internship for students to do?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I have already recommended it to almost I think 12 people! I love this internship, probably the best ever. It’s a great hands-on experience with children and therapy at the same time. I would definitely say its an important internship for psychology majors or psychology related fields. It was one of the most eye-opening accomplishments I have done in my life.
How can Leave UR Mark prepare interns better for interning abroad in India?
The best advice for future interns would be is to come open-minded about everything. Traveling is a must. I highly suggest that. You could plan ahead if you wanted, but everything in India is pretty cheap so if you have the money then planning things last minute is okay. Every weekend I would go somewhere because there is so much to do in India, I never got bored. I would also say plan out an itinerary because if you don’t then you could just wander around, but you don’t want to miss out on the important things.
As far as interning, please go to work and ask to do more than they give you because the bosses don’t pile a lot of work on you unless you ask for it. They do want you to have a good experience and a good time, but if you really want that experience, ask them to do more than what they give you. Interning there in India is marvelous and you are lucky to be there interning, while traveling. Be open-minded to everything because there will be a lot of things, people, and places that you have never seen before or it could change your views. Most importantly, have fun, be safe, and don’t be scared to try different things than you are used to!