International student experience – Internship in Chile

My name is Ine Persyn, I am 22 years old, and I graduated in 2023 as an occupational  therapist at the Artevelde University in Ghent. I have a passion for traveling and exploring nature and new cultures. I found it exciting to combine my studies with my passion by doing an international internship. During my final year of my bachelor’s program, I had the opportunity to complete a three-month internship in South America, specifically in Chile, along with a fellow student. Reflecting on this adventure, I would like to share my experience of interning outside Europe, the value it added to my personal and professional identity, and provide some tips for students considering a similar experience.

Preparations and selection process for the International Internship

I will begin by explaining the process leading up to the actual international internship. Following a selection procedure in Belgium, we were notified well in advance that we had been chosen for an internship outside Europe. The faculty at Artevelde University provided excellent guidance in organizing all necessary insurance and required documents, including a residence visa and an international passport. We were assigned several contacts at the university in Chile and informed that we would be staying with a host family. We were responsible for booking our travel and arranging vaccinations.

Unique placements in Chile

Upon arriving in Santiago, the capital of Chile, we were warmly welcomed by our host family. During our first days, we received a comprehensive tour of the university and the university hospital from a professor at the University of Chile (Universidad de los Andes). In an initial meeting, we were informed that we would first complete a short, exploratory internship followed by a longer internship. The first placement was at a diagnostic centre where children with behavioural, learning, and neurobiological disorders were supported. Due to the language barrier (we did not speak Spanish, and they did not speak English), our local supervisor also acted as translators during this period. Through observation, we learned a great deal about the various assessments used in Santiago and the therapies provided to children under six years old.

My second internship was at a foundation supporting children undergoing cancer treatment. Families from across Chile travelled to the capital to receive affordable and scientifically proven treatment for their children. As an occupational therapist, I had the privilege of helping these children resume activities of daily living through various therapies. I organized cooking, crafting, and sports activities based on the interests of the children present at the foundation. There was also a strong emphasis on psychoeducation regarding the role of occupational therapy in treatment. I delivered a presentation to all families and staff at the foundation, explaining our vision and mission as occupational therapists. Throughout my time at the placement, I was supervised by a fellow occupational therapist, ensuring that my therapies were conducted in a well-founded and effective manner.

A Journey of Personal and Professional Growth

This adventure significantly contributed to my personal growth and professional identity as an occupational therapist. Personally, I learned a great deal about engaging in social interactions with people from a completely different culture and acquired numerous practical skills during my travels. Professionally, my identity received a considerable boost as I applied occupational therapy using different assessments and evidence-based therapies with a new target group. The most significant value of this experience was gaining insights into the various perspectives on occupational therapy from Chilean therapists. Similar to Belgium, the profession is still relatively unknown to the general public in Chile. This lack of awareness drives many Chilean occupational therapists to educate everyone involved in the healthcare network in Santiago. Consequently, the occupational therapy education in Chile has seen significant growth in recent years.

If you are considering undertaking a fantastic adventure as an occupational therapy student in Chile, I have a few tips for you! First and foremost, learning the language of the country is crucial. I sometimes felt I could not fully benefit from my internship due to the language barrier. Especially when working with children, speaking the same language is very helpful. Another tip is to remain open to all the new cultural influences you will encounter. Chileans are very proud of their country and traditions. Immerse yourself in their culture and enjoy the Chilean hospitality. Lastly, make sure to savour every moment of this adventure. It is an experience you will remember for a lifetime.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply