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Experience report. about the compulsory internship at the. We Are Young (WAY) Foundation in Guwahati, Assam, India
1 experience report on the compulsory internship at the We Are Young (WAY) Foundation in Guwahati, Assam, India in the period from October 21, 2020 Submitted by: Sonja Deichmann 1) Internship position in the period from October 21, 2019 to February 28 In 2020 I completed my compulsory internship as part of the degree program Social Work: transnational at the We Are Young Foundation (WAY Foundation) in north-east India. WAY Foundation is a small NGO headquartered in the city of Guwahati, Assam. In 2013, WAY Foundation was officially registered and recognized as an NGO. The organization was founded in 2012, following several youth movements and expressions of frustration with politics and government, as young people in the region often received no voice and the founder of the organization saw the problem that they were often overlooked. In the field of child and youth work, the main focus of the work of the WAY Foundation is to enable children and young people from precarious backgrounds to grow into socially conscious and active citizens in the sense of active citizenship, so that they can lead an independent and self-determined life . The goal and vision of the WAY Foundation is for children and young people to learn important life skills through workshops and training sessions and to be equipped with basic tools that enable them to lead an independent life in a world that is full of challenges . The work of the WAY Foundation is also based on a systemic approach, through which children and young people are to be supported in building up an environment that has a lasting effect on them and supports them in the process of development, whereby a transition from the individual to society can take place . WAY Foundation has various projects and programs in the field of youth work, such as an Inclusive Football Program in the Mawiong community in Meghalaya, the neighboring state of Assam. WAY 1 works with this community
2 Foundation and is also working on setting up an Eco-Village there. In addition, there are various school outreach programs, Experiental Learning Centers are being set up and a Girls Space is being developed with girls from the community. In this way, the prevailing challenges in the region, such as child marriage and child labor, are to be counteracted and various future opportunities are opened up for the children and young people in order to be able to lead an independent and self-determined life. During my internship I was able to gain insights into the various fields of work in the organization and I took on various tasks within the framework of these projects. I was able to work on the development of a gender manual which was developed for the Inclusive Football Program and which was also tested at various state schools in Guwahati. In addition, I made a short film with the former and currently working volunteers from the WAY Foundation and asked them about their experiences with the organization. I also did a literature search on various social challenges in Meghalaya, with a special focus on the Mawiong community, which gave me a better understanding of the overall context and how the community was embedded in the Northeast Indian context. I was also present at a few workshops at schools and supported my teammate in setting up the girls' space in the community. This gave me insights into the work of a grassroot organization and was able to broaden my perspectives on social work in this context. In particular, I learned new approaches to group work, such as the ADDIE Model and the Walker's Cycle. In addition, through the WAY Foundation I was able to get a tangible understanding of the implementation of youth leadership and got to know the principles of the 5th space. In this context, I got the opportunity to use different methods and to use the classic method of group work in the implementation of workshops in the context of the Girls Space and in schools. I was also able to learn different observation methods through participating observation and the documentation of various events. In addition, I was able to apply methods of empirical social research and, on the basis of the module handbook for the gender conversations, I created a quantitative questionnaire for workshops at schools where the modules were carried out in a test phase. In doing so, I benefited from the knowledge I had acquired during my studies and I was able to apply the knowledge I had acquired during my studies in practice. 2
3 A challenge during the internship for me at the beginning was to accept the new way of working of the organization and to learn to understand the structures. I was not used to not having regular working hours and the fact that we worked every day without a weekend made it necessary for me to change over first. In the course of the internship, however, I was able to improve it through active inquiries and exchanges with other team members, but also through observation, and I was able to get used to the way of working. Initially, I had difficulties in finding my role as an intern and in separating them from the other employees, for example if they continued working late into the night or didn't take any breaks, but I realized that I needed it personally and a separation from Work and free time was important to me. Here the boundaries at WAY Foundation blurred a little and professional and personal get-togethers often merged with each other, with team members also referring to themselves as family. The exchange with the other students from my peer group and my own reflection on the course of the internship helped me to find a way to deal with such challenges. Furthermore, the different ways of working of me and my teammate were challenging for me, but together we found a good opportunity to combine our strengths and effectively implement them for professional task fulfillment. I became aware of the importance of knowing the local language in the first few weeks, and I also noticed during my internship that this is of great importance in order to avoid language barriers. However, I found it very positive within the team that when I was there, English was mostly spoken or translated by various team members. In the first few weeks I realized how diverse the north-east of India is in terms of the predominant linguistic diversity. Out of my own interest I began to learn some Hindi, got a Hindi course from a friend once a week and asked my teammates in everyday conversations whether they could tell me different words and wrote them down in my diary, but I noticed quickly that it was not easy for me to learn the language. In my case, knowledge of Hindi would have been useful at the team level, but not necessary, as my instructor always emphasized. However, I would highly recommend taking a language course before going to India or taking a language course on site in the first few weeks in order to be able to communicate better in everyday life with at least a few basic knowledge of Hindi. 3
4 2) Living in Guwahati Before I heard about the possibility of an internship in India, I had no idea where Assam is, let alone where Guwahati is. The northeast of India is often not mentioned in many travel guides and people from northeast India also speak of Mainland India when they talk about the other states. The north-east is connected to the rest of India, even if only via a very small access known as the chickens neck, but is often overlooked when looking at India. The city of Guwahati has approx. Inhabitants, making it the largest city in the state of Assam. Guwahati is right on the Brahmaputra River, which divides the city into north and south. Assam is one of the seven sister states of northeast India (Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim) and is known for its tea and silk. Getting around the city is very easy, be it by walking, public transit, or Uber. The Ola app is recommended as a cheaper alternative to Uber, or Rapido. I liked life in the city very much, the size is pleasant and not too unmanageable in my opinion, so that I could quickly find my way around on my own. I lived in an apartment in Chandmari, which was brokered by a professor from Assam Don Bosco University and for which I paid around the euro rent per month including utilities. The rental costs made up the largest part of the monthly expenses, as traveling by bus and eating out is very inexpensive. There are an incredible number of small street stalls on every corner with fresh, delicious street food, but also many small cafes and restaurants, especially in the district where I lived with the three other students from my degree. I can definitely recommend trying momos (filled dumplings) at the various street stalls, especially good ones are also available at Fat Belly. Otherwise, I can highly recommend the variety of vegetarian Thalis, which were always super tasty due to the large selection. Sports enthusiasts can register in a gym or go jogging on the street very early in the morning. In some areas of the city, this is specially cordoned off and thus serves early risers in the early hours of the morning until half past six in the morning to run, jog or ride a bike. During the day it is much more difficult to find a free way to walk in the prevailing bustle of the street. 4th
5 3) Organizational and general information about the stay abroad The internship was offered to me through the connections and existing contacts of Prof. Dr. Ursula Fasselt mediated and the application went through her coordination. In preparation for the internship in Guwahati, I was largely informed about the situation in Assam through various articles and literature. Due to the writing of my bachelor thesis and the relatively short-term confirmation of my internship in May 2019, I did not have much time to prepare linguistically for my stay in Northeast India. Therefore, I can recommend my successors to learn basic Hindi vocabulary, which is certainly helpful for communication in everyday life. In retrospect, I realized that it would have been very good for me to have a basic vocabulary in Hindi or Assamese so that I could have conversations in a local language in everyday life. Since I was spontaneously accepted for another internship in New York, which I started immediately after the colloquium of my bachelor thesis and then came straight from the USA to India to take part in the summer school of Assam Don Bosco University and then my internship at the WAY Foundation, I didn't have much time for further preparations. Both mentally, as I was very much influenced by the previous experiences, as well as in relation to the practical preparation, such as organizing the visa and the necessary vaccinations. On the website of the CRM (Center for Travel Medicine) are all recommended vaccinations for India, which I did in advance. Most health insurances can also reimburse the amount if the stay takes place as part of a trip (as a small tip on the side). I also got my visas in good time, both for India and for the USA, which again reminded me of my privileges as a white person. Another important aspect in preparing for my internship abroad was the exchange with the other three students who went to Guwahati with me. However, I can say that before coming to Guwahati, I personally did not feel as well prepared as I would have liked and did not know exactly what to expect. In terms of clothing, I can say that I found it relatively liberal in Guwahati, but that I always wore longer, loose tops. I have also made the experience that winter can be very cold and even if the temperatures do not go down to minus degrees, it feels colder than I was used to because there are no heaters or insulated houses. It is therefore definitely advisable to take a warmer jacket with you for the period in December / January. It cools 5
6 then also clearly at night and a thick blanket makes sense. Apart from the two months, the weather during the time I was in Guwahati was very pleasant and not too hot, as it can be in the summer months with the monsoons. Looking back on my internship abroad and the time in Guwahati, I can say that through the experience I had at the WAY Foundation, I was able to acquire important skills for my practice as a social worker on a professional level as well as on a personal level. The experience of doing an internship in a context that is unfamiliar to me was a great enrichment for me, which I really appreciate in terms of my privileges. Due to the relatively short duration of the internship, I had the opportunity to get to know the structures and working methods of the organization fundamentally and to get to know new approaches and working methods in exchange with the social workers of the WAY Foundation. I was able to achieve many of the goals I set at the beginning of the internship and see a great benefit for me as a future social worker in the experience of the internship abroad, especially at the individual level. Based on this, I will definitely be able to bring some learning experiences into my professional practice and benefit from the findings in my future field of work. 6th
7 Appendix Assam Don Bosco University campus, Tapesia Gardens. One horn Rhino Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary: 7
8 Our apartment building in Chandmari: View from the balcony: 8
9 Office of WAY Foundation, Manik Nagar, Ganeshguri: In the community Mawiong, Meghalaya: 9
10 Assamese Thali: Vegetarian Cheese Momos: 10
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