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Mia and Natalie overcome doubt to experience rewards of internships

28 March, 2024

Feature image: Natalie Macdonald at UWA

Mia Zekovic-Bosnjak and Natalie Macdonald are two of 750 UWA students who spent 100 hours during 2023 supporting community-focussed organisations through McCusker Centre for Citizenship (the Centre) internships.

Mia is studying Biomedical Science and interned with Orana House women’s refuge, while Natalie is a Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Psychological and Behavioural Science and Law and Society who undertook her internship with Ronald McDonald House Charities WA (RMHC WA).

Both felt some hesitation and self-doubt about applying for the Internship Program, however they agreed that overcoming these had enriched their university experience; the internship has also opened the door to new opportunities for each of them.

“I definitely experienced hesitations, and I only ended up applying on the night of the deadline,” said Mia.

“I had never completed any internships or work placements with uni, so I didn’t know what to expect. A major hesitation was the uncertainty of which host organisation I may have been matched with, and how demanding the tasks and responsibilities might be.

“The final turning point was realising that I had nothing to lose. Undertaking the internship only offered benefits - obtaining real life skills and experience, engaging in conversations with professionals and knowing that your time is going to something worthwhile.” she said.

Mia is now working as the Young Women’s Mentor for Orana House, a paid casual position undertaken alongside her study, through which she helps to provide a sense of direction, motivation and encouragement to young women who have been exposed to family domestic violence.

Natalie heard about the Centre through a friend who had undertaken an internship earlier in the year, and whose “amazing experience” convinced her to apply.

“At one stage during the application, I was hesitant – I thought ‘I’m not good enough’, and almost gave up on applying,” Natalie said.

Natalie did finish her application, and after making a significant and positive impact with RMHC WA’s Family Room program through her internship, she applied for exchange programs in the United States for 2024 and received an offer to study Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

“I’m truly glad that I ignored my second thoughts and continued with my application, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Natalie said.

“The selection panellists for UCLA were so interested in my internship experience. My career and personal development have greatly benefited from the internship, and without it, I would not have been able to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to study overseas.

“My advice to students who are considering applying for the McCusker internship is to believe in yourself and trust your gut instincts - you got this!”

Both students said that support from their internship supervisors, staff at the Centre, and peers was a key strength in their experiences.

“The support that you get from peers and the McCusker team is one of a kind,” said Natalie.

“Everyone was so caring and understanding about your concerns and were there to help you if you need a helping hand. The check in calls, during the first week of doing my internship, helped me a lot to see how I’d be tracking with my 100 hours, and my peer support group was amazing.”

Mia said that while in some ways the internship was an individual experience, it didn’t feel like a lonely process.

“Your Intern Advisor becomes your best friend - any query, concern or dilemma of any kind can be positively addressed by speaking with them, and I was fortunate enough to learn this early on. No question is a silly question and there is no limit in how often you can communicate with them. The organisation is there to help you and see you succeed,” she said.

“On the host side, Orana House offered me infinite support and I quickly found myself able to speak to members of staff and get some additional guidance if required.”

A photo of Mia Zekovic-Bosnjak at the University of Western Australia. Mia interned with Orana House women's refuge.

Image: Mia Zekovic-Bosnjak at UWA

“UWA is the only university that offers the McCusker internship, and I strongly encourage that every student look into this program,” said Natalie.

“I recommend students start the application process early, which can help ease stress, because uni life can get hectic! Take your time and don’t compare your application journey to others,” she said.

“I am so lucky to have had the positive experience that I did,” said Mia.

“Once I had finished the internship all of the ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’ became irrelevant - the conversations I got to have, the people I was able to meet and the work environment I became part of far surpassed any hesitation and doubt.”