A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I am sending a quick hello from Germany, where I am currently interning at a Clinic for children with neurological problems of all sorts. But why am I here and not in the Netherlands? And what is this internship about?
Internships are part of every Master Course at Leiden (and probably in the Netherlands). Mainly, it is an opportunity to learn and apply the knowledge acquired from books and endless readings of articles. But you could also use that time to go abroad (and learn even more new things) and to find out more about the grown-up-working-9-to-5-world that awaits us after uni.
Play!! It is the most useful and fun thing you can do with young patients. Luckily, we have a lot of play time at the clinic. It is a great way to motivate them (think: “Alright, we will do another 5 questions and then you can pick a board game”) but also a diagnostic tool for cognition (Memory is useful to gauge memory and learning functions after all) and emotions (content and form of free play can be revealing). We sometimes use dolls and stuffed toys to build rapport with children, which is very important when working with them. A child might be much more comfortable talking to a doll instead of the therapist. In our practical course on Child Neuropsychology, we learnt a little bit about projective tests but nothing about play and interaction with young patients.
Meet the parents! Child Neuropsychology is also about the parents. Often, a sudden event (think: accidents, tumors, strokes) turned their family life around and suddenly they are faced with decisions about their child’s treatments. This is when child psychologists turn into trauma therapists and family counselors. Helping the parents is just as important as treating and assessing the child’s cognition. Again, something I heard others talk about but only fully grasped after I started interning.
Find out what’s important (to you!). An internship allows you to find out what you consider important about your future workplace. These can little things, like the food in the lunch room or if the computers are up-to-date and running. Or something like: how research-based are we working or what can I learn from my colleagues? I find these questions important aspects when hunting for a job later. One more thing about the job search: I asked my colleagues how they ended up at the clinic, what they like about it and what they don’t like about their job. Try that too! It is really surprising what kind of answers you get. They definitely got me thinking.
For most international students in a Master Course with clinical focus, going back to their respective home countries is an obvious option. Psychology is a language heavy trade, so speaking the language of your client is important.
But what if there are no internships back home? Some options you might consider: Maybe, you can go to an English speaking country. I never looked into internships in Australia or Ireland myself, but it should technically be possible. Another option are international hospitals or other health care facilities. There are for example rehabilitation clinics in Germany and Switzerland that cater to patients from the Arab world – so if you have an Arabic background these clinics might be an option, even if you don’t speak German. There are also a few international care facilities in the Netherlands you might want to check! And finally, there is always the option to do an “internal clinical internship”, a clinical practical course within the university for international students.
Or you opt for a research internship. That is just as valid as a clinical internship and allows you to stay in the Netherlands.
I highly recommend thinking about your internship soon after (or before!) starting a Master in Psychology. Talk to your fellow students and the study advisor to find out what your options are!
Ahm. I sent them an email two years (!) in advance. Germany is a little crazy that way, I heard about people organizing an internship place last-minute though. I wasn’t too flexible and wanted to work with children with neurological problems, that is why I had to apply early on.