Romania International Internship
Students make a difference while interning in Romania
The country of Romania, with its rich culture and history, has been the ideal atmosphere for an academic and service-oriented internship for students at Brigham Young University. The Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE) in the McKay School of Education and several other colleges on campus send students to take part in this internship working with children in orphanages and hospitals.
This 90-day program in Iaşi (pronounced “yawsh”), Romania started when a faculty member in the BYU Sociology Department was touched by a news story on the terrible conditions of Romania’s orphanages. Since then, students and faculty from the Marriage and Family Life, Psychology, Human Development, Counseling Psychology and Special Education, and Sociology Departments have all been involved in running and attending the internship in Iaşi. “The internship is under the direction of a committee of various departments, and we consider it a strength that it is not under the direction of one person,” said Betty Ashbaker, CPSE professor.
Students who go to Romania have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings. They volunteer in an orphanage that serves primarily children with various disabilities. BYU interns help foster their intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development. “Since many children without disabilities are now being adopted or placed in group homes, the remaining children in the orphanage have significant disabilities and are in great need of instruction, support, and care by our BYU interns,” said Tina Dyches, CPSE professor. Interns also work in group homes where children live in more normalized environments than the orphanage, usually with up to six children and one or two caregivers. In these homes they are able to enjoy home-cooked meals, share a bedroom with only a few other children, and play in community playgrounds. Some children are even able to attend their neighborhood schools.
Some of the children who are placed in orphanages are not actually orphans. Their parents are just not able to take care of them and do not have the resources to provide enough food. “Lots of children have familythat come visit,” Ashbaker said. “Giving them up so they can be fed and provided for is the ultimate sacrifice.” Students work with all the children and assess their developmental needs. “It is not just about being loved and held; they also need to be taught [and] molded, be spoken to, and learn how to use toys,”Ashbaker said.
In addition to working in the orphanage and group homes, students spend time in a local hospital and provide comfort and care to children who are sick and not able to be with their families. Recently, they began working in a hospital for premature babies. Working in both the orphanage, group homes, and the hospitals allows students to have learning experiences in different settings and to apply the things they have learned to their life back home. “It is these experiences that teach our students how to be great parents by going to [Romania to] parent and love other children,” Ashbaker said.
Beyond the work in the orphanage and hospital, students take nine credit hours of academic classes, including cultural experience and Romanian-language instruction from a native Romanian.
The Romanian International Internship allows students to immerse themselves in an international cultural experience. “By going to Romania, I have learned how different cultures view children with disabilities and how they care for them,” said Ellie Young, CPSE professor. “Going there broadens my perspective and my world view, which I appreciate very much.”
“Romania isn’t just a country, it’s a people and children whom you grow to love,” said Aimee Fresh, a Special Education major. “The feelings I felt going to Romania, and the person I have become through my experiences I owe to this wonderful internship.”
September 10, 2012