Hello! congratulations to you all, super exciting times ahead! I hope you are feeling all the feels and looking forward to your journey.
I want to start by saying that it is natural to form pre-constructed ideas about your placement and your role, but if I can offer any advice at all, it is that you try not to do that. Just let things flow and work through them as they come. At this time, and throughout your internship, I hope that you reflect on your privilege, your internalized epistemology and the general tenants of your social location and recognize how your social positionality (such as your race, class, gender, sexuality, ability status, etc.,) basically informs your own perspectives. Our passport and the unearned status that it gives us to roam freely throughout the world and cross borders as we please is a notion that sat hard with me and continues to do so.
For me, at times my placement felt extremely long and emotionally draining, at other times, it flew by and I wished for more time in the day. I had previously worked in mental health and addictions in Victoria and I witnessed what I thought was the darkest of dark in terms of societal positioning and access to services. However, in my opinion, the intersectionality and health equity of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia surpasses the darkest and most debilitating position that one can be in. The complexity of their marginalization runs deep, and this experience has left me with so many unanswered questions.
For all of us, I think that we must be cognizant of the dangers that exist within international work and the ways that we can inadvertently replicate history through colonial and oppressive practices. I believe that we can reduce the risk of repeating historical oppressive practices by working anti-oppressively and focusing on empowerment and strength-based perspectives.
Some takeaways from my internship are the following:
- We are not competent in another person’s culture and we never will be, so we must work with cultural humility and seek informed knowledge (Know the difference between an opinion, of say, a colleague and informed knowledge).
- We must sit with our discomfort and critically engage with our own complacency in the privileged position that we sit in.
- We must be gentle and patient with ourselves.
- We must know that we are not there to change anything. We should know our role and offer support where it is needed.
- We must value these learning experiences and continue to educate ourselves to build on this wealth of knowledge.
One more thing… not every day will be peachy. So try and stay positive and take care of yourself. I am rooting for you and wishing you all the best!