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WSP Internship Preparation (FAQ's)

Why Write a WSP Internship Proposal?

Writing a WSP internship proposal (for Absentia 1) requires thinking about the preparation, skills, objectives, methodologies and outcomes for fieldwork.

This exercise is a bit like trying to forecast the future and complicated by nagging questions like:

  • What will daily life be like at my field site?
  • How will things change after I arrive?
  • What if I can't do a particular project for logistical or academic reasons?

The point of this exercise is to illustrate each 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 as 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.

What Does the Internship Consist Of?

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.

When Is the Internship Proposal Due? 

This proposal must be prepared and reviewed during the semester prior to the start of the internship.  November 15th and April 15th are the deadlines for Fall and Spring, respectively.

What Happens Next?

After the Internship Propoal has been submitted, the student will meet with all sponsors for the academic projects, the Director of World Studies and Director of International Services. This meeting should take place by late April or late November respectively for Spring and Fall.  

Students are expected to come fully prepared to explain their proposal and take notes to revise their proposal. They are responsible to make changes accordingly and submit the revised proposal for approval.  

How Else Can Students Prepare for Internship?

Here are some additional ways that students can prepare for their internships:

  • Networking: Develop a network of friends, faculty, family, alumni, colleagues, contacts—anyone who could possibly be a connection to what you want to study, what kind of job you want to do or where you want to go. Gather information about pertinent organizations, experts in your field, journals and other publications, listservs, web sites, etc. that you can use for future internship possibilities.
  • Regional and Cultural Research: Find out all you can about your destination. Use a variety of sources: books, magazines, internet, films and people, especially a cultural mentor—someone who is from the country or has lived there for some time. Check SIT’s current student body.
  • Academic Course Work: You should work closely with your faculty sponsor(s) to build a solid academic background for your internship position and independent research. Make sure you also have the skills to carry out your internship goals.
  • Pre-Internship Tutorial with Plan Sponsor(s): The semester before you depart, you need to meet with your Plan sponsor(s) to discuss the academic projects you will do while on internship, the general expectations you have for how the internship will fit into your Plan and general cultural and academic preparation. The important thing is to be in close contact with your Plan sponsors throughout the pre-internship semester so that together you design an internship that will support and enhance your Plan.  (See description of one-credit tutorial under WSP Requirements).  
  • Problem Solving Skills: How resourceful are you? Cross-cultural internships always challenge the intern’s ability to deal with crises, whether these are issues with your internship job, the family you are living with or an academic project that needs to be revisied. Work on developing the ability to analyze a problem and come up with multiple creative solutions. Think about how you deal with stress in your own culture and how you that might effect your ability to function abroad. 
  • Professional Skills, Employment, Portfolio Development: How well do you understand your own learning and working styles? How well can you articulate your goals and present yourself to future employers or supervisors? These are questions you will need to consider and answer before you go on internship.
  • Visa and Travel Planning: Research which documents you need tolive in thcountry of your internship. Apply for a passport (or make sure a current one will be valid until six months after your internship ends) and any necessary visas and start to plan your travel. It can take months to obtain these documents, so plan wisely.
  • Health and Safety: Educate yourself on general international travel precaution sas well as those specific to your country destination. The Total Health Center has a variety of resources for and experience with international travelers. Because most cross-cultural experiences can be physically and mentally stressful and medical assistance can be either expensive, difficult to obtain or non-existent in some places, it is best to start an internship in optimal health. You can use the Brattleboro Hospital's Travel Clinic for necessary immunizations and recommendations.
  • Readiness for Internship: In addition to completing WSP courses and having an approved internship proposal and Plan application on file, you must: 1. Be in good academic standing, 2. Participate in health and safety orientations, and 3.  Demonstrate the ability to work independently and meet deadlines. Note: A sponsor or the Director of World Studies may recommend postponing the internship for the student who needs more time to meet the above criteria.

 How Can I prepare to Write my 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.

What Should the Internship Proposal Contain?

The internship proposal should include the following sections:

 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?  Typically, learning objectives will be a list and should include objectives for both 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.  

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, a copy of the student's resume and whatever else makes sense to explain the training and expertise that supports the internship and study. 

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 - Please outline books and articles that you have read and used in research as well as works that are to be used in absentia.
  • 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 Plan sponsors.  However, students do not need official Plan sponsors to sponsor each project; a variety of faculty sponsors can provide greater breath for the semester away from campus. 
  • In designing field projects, please keep in mind the challenges that may occur such as limited access to email, the Internet or even computers, libraries, English speakers or other references that are taken for granted on campus. You are encouraged to maximize your use of the field site as much as possible! 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 students need to show that they have planned for the financial dimensions of their semester away.  Please use the Budget Planning worksheet available from the World Studies Office to create a realistic budget.  Funding options can include Gander grants for WSP students, Town Scholarship and Town Meeting funds and/or language grants. 

VIII. Safety and Preparedness Section - This section if for students to demonstrate how they have prepared 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?
    • If I need it, what is my evacuation plan?