Learning in a practicum setting provides a unique opportunity for students to see and reflect upon the connections between academics and work, to break down students’ tendencies to compartmentalize the different areas of their lives. Practica can promote the application of what one learns from books to life, and vice versa; they can also encourage the habit of lifelong learning if they are combined with required reflection and directed study. In addition to the experiential learning which can take place, internships may also offer students the chance to develop a sense of Christian vocation, to explore the question of what it means for a follower of Christ to work (a word that, at root, is closely tied to worship).
Why should I consider an internship?
Students testify that internships can be powerful and formative experiences. By allowing them to get a sneak preview of what life is like in a particular career area, internships can help evoke, confirm or discourage an occupational direction. They thus provide a helpful bridge into the working world. Internships also give students an opportunity to learn new skills, gain confidence in new surroundings, identify their work values, and build a network of career contacts. Through the various challenges and experiences of an internship, students are able to learn more about their personality, gifts, weaknesses, and interests, as well as their sense of “vocation.” Finally, and most importantly, internships provide students an opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a child and servant of God.
At Westmont, approximately 70% of recent graduates report having had an internship during college. More than 95% of Spanish majors enroll in an internship for 2-4 credits during their college career, typically in their junior or senior years. All have reported very positive experiences. The internship program is especially beneficial to students who are double-majors, for they are given the unique opportunity to combine their interests and talents in their internship (and can also receive double credit for the experience). For example, Spanish and business/economics majors may work in an international business; pre-med students work in clinics and hospitals, shadowing the doctors and interpreting for patients; religious studies majors might work in a Spanish-speaking church or ministry; education majors assist in bilingual classrooms; psychology or sociology majors may work with the county probation department, the rape crisis center, homeless shelters, or other social service agencies; communications majors have an opportunity to work with the local Spanish-speaking radio or television programs. The opportunities seem limitless.
How do I go about getting an internship placement?
The first step is to consult the blue Internship Notebook located upstairs in the lounge area of Reynolds Hall. This notebook is divided into 5 main categories: Primary Schools; Secondary Schools; Social Service Agencies; Hospitals & Clinics; and Businesses. In it, students who have completed an internship contribute a brief descriptive essay (in Spanish) highlighting (1) a description of the organization; (2) the student’s responsibilities; and (3) a candid evaluation of their experience. This is then followed by an English evaluation page. Thus far, the notebook contains over 100 entries describing approximately 45 different sites. Click here for a list of sites for Spanish internships.
Any student interested in a particular site may read about it, and then write down the contact information (located at the top). The supervisor can then be called and an appointment can be set up. This is the student’s responsibility, but one should also contact Dr. Mary Docter (Reynolds 201, extension 7182) during this process.
A student may also elect to choose a new site (one not described in the notebook). Please contact Dr. Docter for approval.
To receive course credit (2-4 units), students enroll in Spanish 190. The first meeting of the semester usually occurs Thursday of the first week of classes at 3:30 in Reynolds 209. Please check your voicemail and email for confirmation of this mandatory meeting!
What are my responsibilities?
The participating organizations expect:
- Volunteer service as an intern for 12-15 hours per week (4 units) or 6-7 hours per week (2 units) during the 15-week semester.
- The ability to speak, understand, read, and write Spanish.
- The willingness and ability to take responsibility.
- Cooperation with the goals of the organization; cooperation with the staff.
- Interest and initiative.
What can the student expect?
A. From the participating organization:
- Appropriate orientation and an opportunity to meet staff.
- Initial meeting(s) to design the learning contract.
- As a pre-professional, academic training in practical working situations.
- An opportunity to use the Spanish language (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) as much as possible, as well as to learn about aspects of Hispanic culture.
- A wide exposure to the scope of problems, responsibilities, structure, and functions of the organization.
- Direct supervision with increasing responsibility as the semester progresses.
- Weekly feedback sessions with an established immediate supervisor for informal professional and personal evaluations and for review of the objectives of the learning contract.
- Suggestions for readings, lectures, and seminars related to placement activities
- Mid-semester (oral) and final (written) evaluation of the work and learning.
B. From the Westmont faculty coordinator:
- Assistance in locating a site where the student will learn the most in relation to their academic and potential vocational interests.
- Group meetings to support their placement by acquainting them with the experiences of other interns and discussing general placement information and problems.
- A visit to the placement site to explore their working situation, to meet their supervisor, and discuss their progress.
- Individual sessions whenever necessary to discuss any problems or issues which arise at the placement.
- Assistance in guiding their reflection and integrating their faith with this experience (through feedback and evaluation of essays and journal entries).
What does Westmont expect?
A. From the student:
- Commitment to learning and to reliable performance.
- Fulfillment of the time commitments agreed upon with the organization.
- Successful completion of the goals as outlined in the learning contract.
- Immediate, direct communication regarding any areas of difficulty.
- Completion of all responsibilities (papers, presentations, readings, meetings, etc.) as outlined in the syllabus.
B. From the participating organization:
- Direct communication of any difficulties, questions, or problems relating to the field assignment or the student intern’s performance.
- The completion of a learning contract and evaluations in order to assess the student’s progress and performance.
- Suggestions regarding speakers, materials, readings, films, and other information which will help us to provide maximum benefit to all students.