UCUinUtrecht: Understanding Societal Change Through an Internship

By Laetitia Boon

Looking for an internship? Get a taste of the real world and apply your knowledge to real-life situations? The Boomerang reports on UCUinAfrica’s little brother, UCUinUtrecht.

In the pilot program that has been running since summer students have collaborated with Utrecht Municipality to research volunteering in Utrecht, in order to influence policy-making for the next 4 years.

Although it has been extremely demanding in terms of time and effort, it is also very rewarding according to the participants. As Christel Lutz, coordinator of the project states, “the students find it exciting and motivating to work on something that’s actually needed.”. There is a new kind of responsibility in working on something that will have a concrete impact for the organisation.

“The students in the pilot project have been working very hard for the organisation,” says Lutz “and that is not the perfect way to run it, because it comes at a cost”. Indeed, Thijs Olthof, a member of the core pilot group, reports a substantially higher workload than initially indicated. However, internships in the future will be carried out over the 5 weeks of the summer term, and thus will not interfere with any other courses.

The UCUinUtrecht program is organised in three parts. Firstly, during the spring term, students will take the 200-level course “Societal Transformations” as their basis for understanding the changing society and the context for their internships. This course will also include field trips “to create the connection to the local context immediately,” says Lutz. Second, a number of workshops will prepare students for the practical part of the internship. Finally, the program is completed with an internship tailored to the student’s interest.

The internship offers a really different take on our learning at UCU. As Rens Bakker, one of the core members of the pilot group says: “You don’t only learn what, but you learn how. Because of this focus on practical application, Lutz says that “it can be very rewarding to find out what you have to offer… when it comes to the academic knowledge, you can bring your strengths to the table.” The goal of the program is to shape students into contributing members of society, who can apply their knowledge in empathetic ways.

Lutz emphasises that the program “is about engaging students in the real world and making sure that they confront the academic knowledge they have with what’s actually going on. Doing this in the middle of their studies allows them to continue with an enriched understanding of their bookish knowledge”.

So who is this course aimed at? Students who want to challenge themselves in a new way; who want to face the challenges of working in an interdisciplinary group; who want to be oriented towards an external organisation, and to work on what interests them. The most important requirement is the mindset. It can be any UCU student with any kind of major, but be warned, this may require more effort than a course that you would take ‘just because’. It makes it that much more rewarding.

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