Blog post

Building a brighter future through Internships

By Mohika Shankar - 27 October 2021

As an international student who hasn't had a lot of work experience - I am always on the lookout for opportunities that could help me build my CV.

Employers nowadays are constantly searching for people with relevant work experience. This gives them an idea of how you can handle challenges that arise in the workplace. I feel that it is extremely important to gain practical knowledge by doing internships and taking up volunteer roles to hone your skills.

On the hunt

This summer, I was unable to get back home due to travel restrictions and so I decided to put my free time to productive use and apply for an internship. After doing a lot of research and asking around my networks, I finally landed upon the perfect opportunity that would be able to support my aspiration to become a Dance Movement Psychotherapist.

I came across the ‘Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies’ (BCAT) which is a registered charity, that was set up in 1933 to provide accessible arts therapies. The centre recently ventured into an ‘Arts in Health’ service throughout the Midlands looking at how communities can benefit from art-based interventions.

BCAT works closely with its community partners across Birmingham to support the health and wellbeing of citizens. And they use art, dance, drama, music, and play to do this. BCAT’s ‘Arts in Health’ sector offers a volunteer programme which was the most relevant, work experience I could find at my level of study. So, I contacted them immediately indicating my interest in the programme.

To apply for their ‘Volunteer Development Programme’ I submitted my CV which I had previously worked on with guidance from the University’s Careers and Employment Service. The availability of CV-building workshops, CV templates and review sessions really helped me articulate my previous experiences into a professional CV.

After that, I submitted reference letters for which I was greatly supported by my lecturer and the wonderful staff at the University. Following these submissions and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, I was on board and on my way to assisting a facilitator running a community arts session.

Working in the Community

Over the course of the next three months, I had the opportunity to work in different parts of Birmingham and interact with people of varying ages, genders, ethnicities, and cultures. The sessions were designed to have therapeutic benefits when one engaged with the planned activities and also offered a judgment-free space for people to come and share their thoughts and feelings.

After the disruption caused by Covid-19 in the social spheres of peoples’ lives across the world, these sessions also provided them with a chance to come together and restart their social interactions which helped people regain a sense of normality.

Working in the community gave me a sense of belongingness and satisfaction. Sharing my love for the arts with them and seeing them benefit from it made me realise the transformational and healing powers the creative arts hold. It was so heartwarming to see smiles on people’s faces, listen to them share their stories, and see them so excited to come to the sessions each week.

Building New Skills and Connecting

There were so many new transferable skills that I picked up on during my internship. Just being present and observing how a facilitator carries out a session, noting the ways they hold a safe space, and addressing group dynamics whilst keeping in mind the boundaries of the relationship was an extremely valuable learning experience.

From time management and organisation skills to the skill of holding a formal yet open conversation with someone or helping someone reflect on their thoughts and experiences are all assets that I witnessed and learned while being an active part of the group.

Joining the organisation also gave me a chance to build my network and associate myself with many professionals already practicing in the field. They gave me a lot of insight into therapeutic arts by sharing their experiences, learnings, passions, and journeys. I had the opportunity to assist some of the most amazing facilitators who have given me so much support and guidance along the way. I truly feel that the connections I have made during the internship will last a lifetime.

One Step Closer to my Dream

While I still continue my association with BCAT on this programme, the internship has given me invaluable practical knowledge and will definitely help me make more informed decisions regarding my career path in the future. As I reflect on it, I can now recognise the aspects of therapeutic arts that I enjoy and the ones that I need to develop more.

I am extremely grateful for all the support I have received from my lecturers and the staff at the University who have always encouraged me to expand my horizons. I feel immense gratitude to have had this opportunity as I am now one step closer to my dream.

About the author

A photo of international student Mohika Shankar

Mohika Shankar
Dance and Psychology student

Mohika is a second year international student from Delhi, India, studying Dance and Psychology.