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Joanna Leck, IOCC-Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia — You think about your internship. You dream about it. You even spend a good amount of time worrying if you will be able to do the job. No matter how many countless hours you spend focused on “the internship” you will never be fully prepared for what you are about to experience.

I was ready to work with children. I had studied developmental psychology and all the leading theories. I had spent years dissecting the art of communication and identity management. I had my educational guns at the ready, prepared to enter the milieu armed with my knowledge. Through all my educational outfitting, however, I had forgotten what is truly important: people. My IOCC internship at the Center for the Welfare of Infants, Children, and Adolescents in Belgrade, Serbia, brought me back to why I started on the journey that was higher education: I wanted to connect with people. I wanted to learn about how to engage in a shared experience whether the experience is one of great joy or great sorrow.

I have learned many things as an intern, some lessons were expected and some were unexpected. Here is what proved the most meaningful. I have learned that adults and children alike desire purposeful work, freedom and laughter. I have learned that there is nothing as powerful and as necessary as the touch of another person. That a smile crosses all language barriers. That not everything in life occurs because you deserve it (this applies to both good and bad things). And that in the moment of shared human experience you can find something divine.

What I have learned about IOCC is that their aim is one of enriching the human spirit and enabling that spirit to find the strength to thrive amidst conditions that are not optimal, to say the least. Having been a part of this process, I must say I walk away from the experience richer in spirit. While an internship is not about being paid top dollar, you are assured to walk away with a rich experience that will profoundly affect you as an individual.

— Joanna

Joanna Leck’s three-month internship with IOCC’s local partner, the Center for the Welfare of Infants, Children, and Adolescents in Belgrade, Serbia, was sponsored by the Coca-Cola World Citizenship Program through the University of Florida International Center. Joanna has a BA in Psychology and is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Florida.

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