For many graduate students around the country, the beginning of a new semester means new responsibilities and experiences. For those of you who are starting your internship and/or practicum hours, here are a few tips.
1.Ask a lot of questions
This sounds like a no brainer but believe me, some students approach internship and practicum from the standpoint that their supervisors are going to cover everything important. When it comes to your site and university supervisors, they want you to be as proactive as possible. Become very familiar with your internship/practicum manuals before your first day. Most site supervisors have as many questions as you do. If you can be 100% familiar with your responsibilities and requirements, it will make for a good start. And most importantly, don’t assume anything. For example, some students assume that if their site supervisor isn’t there, they can’t be there. This isn’t necessarily true in many cases. Find out for sure.
2.Come prepared with your schedule of available times
During your first meeting with your site supervisor, have a schedule of your available time planned out. As well as important dates that you know you can’t make it. For example, weddings you know you have to attend or even the day before your big paper is due. The benefits are two fold. You have your final schedule finalized much sooner, which means you can start working toward those hours faster. Your supervisor can be more accommodating to your requests. If they know in advance you won’t be able to make some day in the future, you could possibly come in early or an extra day to make up for it. Don’t wait until the last minute to tell your supervisor you can’t make it.
3.Make it your priority
It is no ones job but yours to get those hours completed. Remember that your site supervisor is usually volunteering his or her time and their 40-hour a week job is their priority. Noticing half way through the semester that you can’t get enough hours or tapes in is no excuse. If you need more time or counseling opportunity, advocate for yourself.
4.This is your best opportunity to learn, so take it
Use internship/practicum site as a way to cement your passion for your career choice. If you start your experience and are unsure of whether or not this is something you want to do long term, talk with your university supervisor about your feelings. Some students let their bad experiences cloud their decisions. Explore your options. If the site is not for you than talk about other career placements for those with a degree in your field. You will be surprised how many different avenues you can take once you get your degree.
5. Always come prepared
If part of your practicum/internship experience is recording counseling sessions, always have a digital recorder or tape recorder with you. I would suggest leaving it somewhere safe at your site.
6.Hours, hours, hours
Get your hours in early and often. If you have planned out your semester and you need every single day to complete your hours, you are leaving no room for unexpected events. Some students are forced to take an “Incomplete” for a internship class because they were unable to complete their hours because they got sick during the semester or their site had unexpected closings. Leave yourself some wiggle room. Even going in one extra hour a week will help account for the unexpected.
7.Document, document, document
This is a big one. Not only is it required for your internship/practicum, you will be surprised how important it will become even after graduation. The more detailed your logs the better. Remember, no identifying information though. I would recommend two logs, one with just a breakdown of your hours, the other with more detailed information. Make sure to keep up with your records and that they are accurate! You can use this information for licensure and certifications.
Enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can, go everywhere and accept any new learning opportunity they offer you. The more exposure you have the more certain you will be when you start your first job on your own. Good luck!
Jessica Diaz is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, a third-year doctoral student, and was a student representative on ACA’s Governing Council.