Sara Martin is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A biological sciences major, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester through the custom program at the University of California, Davis.
In this week's post, Sara tells us about her internship experience with OASIS and what she's learned so far about herself, her future and Australian work culture.
OASIS Crisis Accommodation
OASIS is a Youth Support Network run by the Salvation Army, often referred to as “Salvos”, available for people between the ages of 16 and 25. We help those in need access resources that they may not be able to receive otherwise such as: driving and academic education, counseling, young parents programs, and legal aid. The branch of OASIS that I intern at is used as a refuge for young people up to the age of 22 until they are able to secure more permanent housing.
Day 1 versus Day 10
As a new intern, I was prepared to make the best impression possible on my first day. Due to my young age, I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I didn’t go all-out in a blazer and slacks. By the end of the first week, I finally realized that the Salvos attitude simply doesn’t require that level of “professionalism”. When you’re working with young people, it is important to make them feel comfortable; suits don’t exactly make a person appear approachable. While my specific internship has given me the idea that the Australian work culture is more relaxed, I believe that each different avenue has many similarities in practice and in appearance to the US work culture.
The Aussie Attitude
While my coworkers like to claim that they don’t stay back and work extra hours off-the-clock as the stereotype goes, I have often witnessed them do exactly that. While there are people in the US who will stay back just to take care of their clients, I feel as though it is a more regular concept here. At first it was difficult getting used to the unpredictable hours and flow of events, but after a while I took it as refreshing. Some days we’ll have a calm day and end shift exactly on time. Other days will be filled with intense events which will lead to spending an extra hour discussing ways to work past those events or use them as examples of ways to improve.
We Like to Have Fun
The first trick to creating a healthy mind and body is to know why trying is worth the effort. We at Salvos know this and so we try to bring a variety of fun activities to our clients. Of course, this would be an almost impossible goal to achieve without our wonderful volunteers.
Decorating For and With the Young People
Although Halloween isn’t typically a popular holiday to celebrate in Australia, we use any excuse to brighten our young peoples’ days. The volunteer coordinator allowed me to set up Halloween decorations with the young people and it seemed as though the clients enjoyed it far more than they had anticipated. After decorating, we had our weekly barbecue lunch where internal and external clients gather and the employees get a chance to catch up with them and each other in an informal setting. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a great barbecue lunch?
A Sound of Life
Once a week a lovely volunteer group “A Sound of Life” brings a variety of drums to the courtyard for clients and even other employees to participate in a jam session. It is lovely to hear the young people participate and encourage those who are usually more reserved to join in. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to witness a true synchronization within the group but it is always wonderful to watch the young people have fun with the volunteers.
Making a Difference
While completing my student placement at a youth refuge has very little to do with my future career at face value, I wouldn’t have traded it for any other experience. It has been a challenging few weeks learning how to implement Trauma Informed Care to youth that are, in all reality, not that much younger than myself. Through my time at Oasis, I have come to realize that I have a lot of development to undergo before I will truly be prepared to help others as they work to improve their lives… although it has also given me the confidence to not back down from the challenge of trying. I have a lot left to learn from my coworkers about understanding how to best approach clients’ needs.
Due to the sensitive nature of this service, a limited number and view of photos are used in order to respect and protect the privacy of the young people and employees.
Sara's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.