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International community-based work placements: Psychology students’ experiences Dr Jacqui Akhurst (Ron Cooke International Scholar, 2012-3)

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Presentation on theme: "International community-based work placements: Psychology students’ experiences Dr Jacqui Akhurst (Ron Cooke International Scholar, 2012-3)"— Presentation transcript:

1 International community-based work placements: Psychology students’ experiences Dr Jacqui Akhurst (Ron Cooke International Scholar, )

2 Internationalising? From Service learning to Community- based learning (CBL) The need for psychology students to understand the relevance of their studies to societal and global issues in an increasingly globalised world (Trapp & Akhurst, 2011) Work placements are undertaken by all students at YSJU Students would often like an international experience, but can’t afford / don’t have the time for / are reluctant to go for, a longer exchange period Programme to integrate CBL as part of the 2 nd year Psychology of Work module (all students undertake a 3-week work experience and reflect on it in the light of the theories they have studied). Topics: Leadership, Teamwork / groupwork / conflicts, Motivation, Stress and coping, The recruitment process, Personal development

3 Community-based work placement Eight groups of students have accompanied me to international destinations from : the Gulf Coast of Southern Mississippi (13), Tanzania (20) and to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (24) - 57 students in all! Central role of critical reflection Linking citizenship and HE through experiential learning

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8 Student Reflections: Preconceptions of students and hosts before CBL, for example: Before going to Africa, I had classic stereotypical views … I expected to see lions on the roadside and there to be quite negative attitudes towards myself and my fellow students... I could not have been more wrong. … It was wonderful to be accepted into these people’s lives … which for their culture was the norm yet for me was humbling. Some of the people we met had preconceptions about white British people... when they realised that there was going to be a mutual respect they opened up to us.

9 … Deepened cross cultural awareness … Observing the culture in Africa was fantastic for putting the theories learnt through studying psychology into real life situations. … [what]most surprised me was how much the people of Africa think about others and improving things not only for themselves but for people in the future. They particularly noted comparisons in living standards and resources: … it showed me how as a country and a society we take a lot of things for granted, and on a personal level it made me realise just how lucky I am… What most surprised me was how happy the Tanzanian people were with their lives. Although they never had much I never once heard anyone complain about their living conditions or health.

10 …Learning generally and about themselves Numerous examples, e.g.: I … learned how lucky I am to have had such a good style of life in England. I also found myself to be more capable than I thought I was and when presented with problems or issues I grew as a person and have higher … values in life due to my experience this proved that I can overcome other obstacles in my life if I just persevere and keep telling myself that I can do it We were thanked by all the staff involved in the project for all of our work... However, I feel I gained a lot more from the experience than what I gave.

11 … the emotional impact of their experiences One main thing which distressed me was seeing ill people on the side of the road... Although I understood that there aren’t enough medical services and people cannot afford them, I got upset knowing that people were suffering and there was nothing I could do to help. At times we were faced with some deeply emotional subjects which only highlighted the fact that I am blessed to have what I have in my life. My confidence also grew as a result it was really challenging for me … you see adverts … about people living in poverty in 3rd world countries … but until you physically see it, I don’t think anyone could imagine … just how awful it is … my 3 weeks in Africa were some of the best of my life, yet some of the most heart breaking.

12 …Thoughts about education Their experiences in educational settings are illustrated by: … how eager the children are to learn and how much effort they are willing to put in to their school work from an early age. People in our country take education for granted. … nothing can prepare you for how emotionally attached you get to the children. Although upsetting at times hearing their stories it never ceased to amaze me how happy the children were … The specific challenge of HIV/Aids was noted: I think the biggest thing that was highlighted for me was just how much HIV/Aids is a massive problem. I knew that there was this issue but did not realise the scale of the issue. To be honest I did not know what to expect but came back completely amazed by the country and the people.

13 Impact on their thoughts about their futures … helped me to confirm that after my degree I would like to work in education. I had never once considered teaching, or … working with children in any way, but this experience has changed that opinion completely … I know the rewards that can be gained. Some of the students noted how they hoped to assist others: I want to help make a difference. … my life has been changed for the better, for good. I just hope that I have done the same for the people that I met …

14 Overall Reflections CBL enhances quality of students’ learning and engagement in their subsequent studies CBL supports students’ desires to become involved in communities / volunteer, in ways that are more nuanced and respectful than potentially patronising ‘charity’ “If you’ve come to help me you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” (Watson, in Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2005, p.27) The key importance of building PARTNERSHIPS with community- based organisations, in ways that promote EQUALITY (cf. knowledge, status and history of social arrangements) and SUSTAINABILITY Students become aware of the role psychology might play in addressing global issues, contributing to their psychological literacy A video made by a member of the 2011 UKZN group


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