Writing a WSP/Absentia 1 Internship Proposal

Writing a WSP/Absentia 1 internship proposal requires thinking about the preparation, skills, objectives, methodologies and outcomes for fieldwork. The exercise is a bit like trying to forecast the future and complicated by nagging questions like: What will I really find at my field site? What if things change? What if I can't do a particular project? However, the point of this exercise is to illustrate the student’s preparedness to do independent work. An important part of that is being able to formulate a project prior to the start of the fieldwork or reformulate a slightly different project if conditions change. Students should have the tools necessary to propose a different project, revise an existing one, switch to different research methodologies, or do whatever is needed to get back on track for the execution and completion of absentia work.

A WSP internship lasts six to eight months and consists of two parts: (1) the internship job (20 hours of supervised work per week for approximately 5 months) and (2) a series of field-based academic projects for which a student receives a semester's worth of credit (minimum 12 credits, maximum 18). A student preparing to go on internship needs to write an internship proposal that describes both the work to be done in the internship job and academic projects. This proposal must be prepared and reviewed during the semester prior to the start of the internship with November 15th and April 15th as the deadlines for the following semester of independent work (Absentia 1).

The review for WSP internship proposals consists of a meeting held with the sponsors for the academic projects, the director and associate director of World Studies and the student putting forth the proposal. In the case of non-WSP students going abroad on AB 1 the director of advising will be included. In domestic AB 1 cases, the sponsors and director of advising will meet with the student. Upon meeting, all parties involved discuss the academic projects and internship work to be completed during the semester in absentia. Students are expected to come fully prepared to explain their proposal and take notes incorporating comments from those present at the meeting. Students then make the according changes in the revision process and submit the revised proposal for approval.

All students, WSP or non-WSP doing AB 1 domestically or internationally must have an approved proposal on file when submitting their AB 1 form with the registrar.

Note: Most students will need to do revisions and re-submit the revised proposal for approval.

In preparing to write the internship proposal, students should look at the proposals on file in the World Studies lounge.

The Parts of the WSP Internship Proposal

A good internship proposal outlines a body of work a student can accomplish in the field and also carry back to Marlboro for use on senior Plan. It poses a clear question (or set of questions) and shows how data will be collected and answers (or preliminary answers) arrived at. It demonstrates the credibility of the writer by reference to classes, readings and prior experiences. The proposal also shows how the internship job will complement and support the academic work. It is realistic in terms of a student's age and experience, academic discipline and cross-cultural experience. It includes a clear awareness of the person's role as an apprentice learner in the host organization, whose task is to figure out ways to adapt to the culture and make a contribution to the organization.

Creating an internship proposal is primarily the responsibility of the student, but it necessarily involves input from faculty sponsors as well as the WS director and other appropriate faculty and staff. Well before students write their internship proposal, students should be engaged in conversations with faculty sponsor(s) about ideas for an internship job and academic projects.

The creation of an internship proposal is meant to guide the student through preparations for internship work and to result in a record of what will be accomplished. The proposal itself consists of the following pieces:

I. Introduction-This section introduces the subject of the internship and situates it in the context of past and future interests and efforts. It identifies what the internship will consist of (both the job and academic focus). It provides a short description of the student’s background, including the experiences and interests that have lead up to the internship. It also points to anticipated senior Plan work. All of this provides a context in which to understand the proposed internship work.

II. Learning Objectives (job and academic projects)- What are the goals and desired outcomes for the internship job and academic projects?

The first step in designing an internship project is to determine what will be learned. A learning objective describes an end result and may fall in either of the following areas:

  • academic learning and application (ideas, concepts, theories, cross-cultural perspectives)
  • skill development (skills specific to an academic field or professional occupation- e.g., interviewing, foreign language fluency, data collection, organizational analysis, grant writing).

Thus, some examples of learning objectives--both academic learning and skill development--are:

  • To describe the economic roles of women in rural Panama today and compare these with women's work a generation ago.
  • To formulate interview questions based on observations of the religious and political life in the Oaxaca area.
  • To examine the effectiveness of the health organization in addressing the health needs of the Amazonian community.
  • To develop strategies for dealing with ethical challenges the research may present.
  • To gain oral proficiency in Spanish at the ACTFL Advanced Low level.

Typically, learning objectives will be a list and should include objectives for both the internship job and academic projects.

III. Capability Statement- Discuss student preparations for the internship and field research. Please include classes germane to the experience, language study, past experiences in and outside of college, a bibliography of readings central to the proposed work, and whatever else makes sense to explain the training and expertise that supports the internship and study. A copy of the student’s resume can go in this section.

IV. Description of Internship Job- Provide a description of the organization where the internship will occur. What is the name and nature of the organization? List the contact person/supervisor and contact information. Where is it located? Include information from the mission statement. Include a job description or outline the job responsibilities. List start and end dates and the number of work hours per week. Include a letter of invitation from the organization if one exists at this point.

V. Description of Academic Projects- This is the heart of the field research proposal and needs the most attention. Each credit-bearing project should include:

  • Project title (equivalent to a course title: this goes on the transcript)
  • Faculty sponsor (who will receive this work, comment on it and give a grade)
  • Number of credits the completed project will receive (generally 2, 3 or 4)
  • Clearly articulated research question(s) (i.e., objective, including the topic/issue with an over-arching question including a number of subordinate questions
  • Appropriate and specific activities for data collection (including methodology: be as detailed as possible here, giving precise details as to what, when, where, who or with whom and how
  • Concrete product(s) for evaluation (e.g., three 4-page papers; one roll of film taken each day for x weeks; vocabulary lists plus journal entries in the local language, etc.)
  • Proposed bibliography

This is a section that will need to be done with the input of the faculty members who will sponsor individual projects. Students commonly start by talking with their adviser and Plan sponsors. A student does not need official Plan sponsors signing on for all of the different projects. A variety of faculty sponsors can provide greater breath for the semester away from campus. Include a bibliography that outlines books and articles that have been read and used in research and works that are to be used in absentia.

In designing field projects, keep in mind the challenges that may occur such as limited access to email, the Internet or even computers, libraries, English speakers or other reference sources that is taken for granted here on campus. Make maximum use at the field site and its human resources. Primary source materials, people and places will all be available "in the field" as in no other situation. Please note that if research is to be conducted on human subjects, a research proposal will need to be submitted to and approved by the Research Review Committee.

In general, internship projects should be;

  • field-based and better done in the field than back on campus .
  • supportive of, but not the same as, work for Senior Plan
  • able to be accomplished in 6-8 months
  • challenging, interesting, and engaging skills sets and knowledge base.

Students should also not overload themselves with projects. The goals of the internship include as much interaction with the host community as possible. Writing field notes each day will be necessary and students will want to collect a great deal of "raw data" that will be further analyzed upon return (and not during tenure in the host country). Find a balance that includes reflecting on the materials collected, going back for further information germane to the projects and research while leaving fuller analysis until later.

Some academic projects WSP students consistently sign up for are:

Cross-cultural journal: All students going abroad should keep a general fieldwork journal, apart from notes dedicated to specific credit-bearing projects. On the most basic level a cross-cultural journal is a daily log of events and experiences. It helps document changing attitudes toward oneself, the host country and internship organization and the academic work. It also provides a map of a growing awareness of local issues, cultural nuances, ethical dilemmas as well as what it means to be a foreigner abroad.

Cross-cultural journal submissions generally take the form of a series of short, monthly papers reflecting on subjects that recur in journal entries but that are not covered in work for the other projects. In the past students have submitted monthly journal reflections on questions of race, gender and national identity in a host country (and as it pertains to the student) as well as family relations, consumerism, food, etc.

Language project: Talk with a language faculty member to establish goals, methodologies and desired outcomes.

Others credit-bearing projects may include:

  • an interview project on a particular subject that pertains to the research
  • a survey (again, on a particular subject)
  • organizational portrait focused on your internship organization
  • photo documentation of a particular process, event or social group

VI. Timeline

This is a clear outline of due dates for work to be submitted while on absentia, usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. In conjunction with faculty sponsors deadlines for academic projects will be established. Use the timeline to determine what work is easier to submit at the start of fieldwork and what is more realistic towards the middle or end.

VII. Budget

WSP/Absentia 1 students need to show that they have planned the financial dimensions of their semester away from the college. Use the Budget Planning worksheet available from the World Studies Office to create a realistic budget. It may be necessary for students to research funding options and finalize financial aid details. Funding options can include Gander grants for WSPs, Town Scholarship and Town Meeting funds, language grants at Marlboro College. For funding beyond MC, refer to financial aid and study abroad.

VIII. Safety and Preparedness Section

In this section students will demonstrate how they have prepared for their studies abroad in regards to health, safety and concerns around cultural differences and practices. In addressing these matters, students will include the following; precautions to ensure safety, awareness of safety concerns and a detailed list of precautions to address safety, health and cultural concerns.

Some questions to respond to are: How would I proceed and who would I contact in case of accident/illness/hospitalization? How and when do I communicate with home institution in such cases? Who will support me and how so in-country? What is the address of the nearest hospital? Is there someone who can translate if need be? Will any allergies or medical contradictions be of concern? What is my evacuation plan?

Things to keep in mind

Absentia 1 work is due by the first faculty meeting of the following semester after the Absentia 1 semester away from campus. Earlier deadlines set by the student and faculty sponsor may apply.

Credits need to be at least 12 to retain full-time status. Students in excess of 18 credits will be charged for the extra credits. It is recommended that students take between

12-14 credits so not to get overloaded. Most students do so as fieldwork projects can be challenging when balancing an internship job with writing, language learning, and daily life in a foreign country.

For answers to questions in regards to Absentia 1 and the WSP internship phase, consult with academic advisers, Plan sponsors, director of academic advising, the director and associate director of World Studies.