Natascha Prinz is a childcare student who recently swapped her hometown Stift Ardagger in Austria for London and ADC's Internship Programme. Here, she was placed in Mapledown School, an education centre for children with special needs. In this letter, the 19-year-old tells the story of how work experience inspired her to seek out more challenges.
To figure out what I want to do with my future, I have aspired to gain as much experience as I can. For two months I worked as a waiter. The following two years I worked at a wood and iron company called Umdasch. It was hard work because before that I had only been sitting quietly in the classroom at school. As I'm interested in childcare, I've tried to gain work experience in institutions that work with adults and children with special needs, but it has been difficult to combine with my studies. Then last year I finally worked up the courage to write a letter to SOS Children's Villages. For three weeks I lived with eight children on a farm in Austria and tried to give them all the love and attention I could muster.
And now a second dream has come true: I've been able to come to London and work with children with special needs! Mapledown School is made up of eleven classes with up to six students in each class. The teacher is assisted by one learning support assistant per student. The learning disabilities vary and require different forms of help. The therapies at Mapledown include physio, music and hydrotherapy, among others.
The students arrive by bus in the morning. Before midday, we usually do exercises and games, like drawing pictures, swimming or driving to the park for a walk. In the afternoon, we have access to a huge garden to enjoy the sun and fresh air.
At first I thought I wouldn't be able to contribute, because I had never worked in a school for children with special needs before. On my first day, I felt a bit overwhelmed because I was encouraged to help out and it made me afraid of making mistakes. But at the same time – what can go wrong when you love your work and want the best for the children? The staff always showed me how to perform the tasks and if I wasn't sure about something I could always ask for help. Now I can work independently and without getting nervous, because I have gotten to know the school, the staff and the students.
I love working at Mapledown. The students are so special. Even when they're unable to talk, they give you much more in return than you could ever give to them.
So all I can say is thank you for making this possible for me! If everything goes to plan, this experience will help me to work in Africa during my gap year. After that I would like to study social work in Vienna.
Natascha visited London with our Internship Programme, a project eligible for EU funding. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get sponsored. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send us a message.