Choosing between sending your student on a group program versus an individual internship is a personal choice. Both have roughly the same success rate. For individual internships, heading into the world on your own presents challenges of loneliness or finding things to do with your free time. The majority work through this and complete their individual placements with flying colors.
Joining a group helps with the loneliness and activities but creates its own unique challenges. Group think, or following the herd, can lead otherwise hardworking students to make poor decisions.
Our Down Under semester raises these issues during the orientation. The program provides additional structure and support. We take them outside the city to places they would likely not visit on their own. We show them the wild spaces and teach them about the history of the areas. We hike remote beaches and enjoy Aboriginal dance performances. Most of all, we keep it light and fun. They have some serious work to do the next week; orientation is about relaxing, learning, and hanging out.
This program functions on a natural model with minimal social engineering. It’s geared to treat them as independent individuals who can take or leave the group as they wish. We don’t sit in circles and prod students to share their innermost thoughts with others. And if they have issues living with certain people, we simply move them if we can and move on.
This program is about adults showing up to work on time; checking out new places together or alone; and discovering how cool life can be when you learn to function independently.
Our staff checks in with them twice a week on average. Some days we do one-on-one check-ins and discuss their mental and physical well-being and how they are doing at their internships. Other days we meet with their entire households—usually four at a time—and talk about places to go and how to plan their trips.
The mentoring we do is built into the fabric of the program. If they follow the few rules we require, they are mentoring themselves which is the ideal. If they have issues with a roommate or boss, get sick, or have anxiety, we handle this in a confidential manner. We make our suggestions and help set up doctor’s appointments and let parents know what is going on.