This six-week internship experience positioned the themes of gender, sexuality, and NGO work in a Dutch context, exposing me to a new culture from a remote setting. The SIT program introduced me to literature that made me consider my position as a white woman living in America. This literature also helped me in my work with TheBridge2Hope as I learned about the experiences of sexual exploitation survivors in the Netherlands. Through the three projects I completed for the internship, I learned about the physical, psychological, and social effects of human trafficking, the effects of cultural oppression on survivors, and the effects that volunteers feel when interacting with trauma every day. Working on these projects not only provided me with knowledge about human trafficking and compassion fatigue, but also helped me develop my research, planning, and organizational skills.
By the end of the program, I had achieved my goals, understood the concepts of gender and sexuality in a new context, and become an advocate for survivors of sexual exploitation. Being an intern at TheBridge2Hope has been an inspiring experience that will follow me throughout my entire life.
This internship has fostered growth both in my personal and professional life. The work that I was doing along with the course readings and teaching shifted my worldview and created a new mindset about gender, sexuality, and NGO work. I began this program with a western-centric view of these topics. Through the teachings of this experience, I now know the importance of challenging my preconceived notions and learn. I have transformed from someone who knew almost nothing about the experiences of survivors of human trafficking to someone who can call themselves an advocate for survivors.
Additionally, I have gained skills and experience that will stick with me throughout my professional life. Facing the challenges that I mentioned before has prepared me for the work environment. These situations, along with learning about Dutch work culture, have taught me to not take on too much work, that it is okay for plans to change. I also improved upon my communication and networking skills, which was unexpected for this remote experience. Through various aspects of my internship, I developed organizational and planning skills that will help me in all areas of life. In addition, I improved upon my research skills. As a psychology major, research will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. This experience will help immensely as I apply to and hopefully go through graduate school. I am grateful to have learned so much information that will help me excel in my field and my life. Ultimately, I believe that I have become a competent intern and advocate.
For those who are considering studying abroad, I want to be transparent and communicate that it is a big commitment and involves a lot of one’s time and energy. I had a lot of difficulty managing my time and balancing my work. It became quite overwhelming at times. Though, at the end the relief and pride I felt was enormous. I would say it is worth it.
Additionally, SIT was a great program to work with and the Netherlands was an amazing place to learn about. The program directors were incredibly helpful and involved. They impacted my work a lot and helped me stay on track. They also taught me about the culture in the Netherlands and even presented opportunities to go there. I hope to go there and meet them in-person one day. Overall, it was a great experience that I highly recommend.
Maggie Conlee is majoring in Psychology and participated in the summer 2021 URaCE and Office of Study Abroad virtual research internship abroad to the Netherlands through SIT Study Abroad.
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