What does it mean to be an intern?

by | May 25, 2019

My school and the tradition of Thai medicine that I teach and practice offers students an opportunity to intern. I myself have interned with my own teachers and I wanted to share what this experience is like for me.

I have always seen interning as an amazing opportunity. It feels like a rare gift being offered invaluable information that allows me to have professional, spiritual and personal growth without any additional financial cost to me. I know that my clients and the community that I serve through my therapeutic work also benefit from my interning experiences.

The value of this is immeasurable to me and I am very thankful to my teachers for the opportunity to have more education and support. Seeing the techniques and postures repeated, listening to the lectures and theory again, being able to take more notes, having my body worked on by their skilled hands all really cements my understanding at a deeper level each time. Teachers answering my endless questions with patience and then hearing their insights and wider experience than mine allows me to grow as a practitioner and teacher far more quickly than if I had been finding my way alone.

The lineage is a very supportive and unusual one. It is a caring and generous community and teachers support my studies by being there when I have questions and sharing information as theirs grow from their own ongoing studies and clinical experience. Interning provides me with an opportunity to receive new information from them which always helps my perspective, this may be about anatomy, Buddhism, spiritual daily practices, elements, herbs, clinical observations and practice and much more. I know I can get much deeper into the theory and teachings from repeating the classes over and over, without this my work could be superficial and could be detrimental to my own health.

I am a teacher, but when I am interning I am a student, I take off my teaching hat knowing I don’t have any responsibility to teach so I can immerse myself in the student experience. I see the opportunity to repeat classes and benefit from teachers support in a way that naturally makes me want to give something back, so that my appreciation to them is known, I think about what I can do to help them in a way that makes a difference to their lives.

During class I help clean and organise, I do all the small things that need doing and I make sure my teacher has what s/he needs to be able to get on with teaching the class. I make drinks and infusions available for the students, I clean up and keep the class tidy throughout the day, I bring snacks and keep the altar in good order, candles lit and flowers fresh. I have my eye on details that I know matter. I offer my help to my teacher so that s/he can benefit from my ongoing support because I see this relationship and the community as an important one in my life, and like any relationship it works best when two people are working at it.

My teachers want me to be part of a community because they value me. I am offered the opportunity to intern because it helps solidify and re-educate me . My teachers want the best for me as a practitioner and teacher and they know that there is only a certain amount of information that can be retained from any one class. My repeating the training also keeps a strong connection to my teacher so s/he continues to regard me as a student who is serious about the healing art and helping others.

I make sure that I do what I can to make class smooth and hassle free and I help to build community with the newer students by being someone in the class for whom the information and hands on techniques aren’t new. This helps students who are struggling and out of their comfort zone feel they have someone who has been in their position, so they can speak to me and this often leads us to becoming friends.

Traditionally a student would have been chosen by the teacher and their relationship would develop over many years with the teacher sharing information and skills when s/he thought the student was ready to go deeper. In modern day times, especially in the west this kind of relationship is not generally possible. Interning, having invaluable time with a teacher is the closest alternative to this traditional way of sharing the healing art tradition.

Thank you to Damion Bond and Nephyr Jacobsen for their generosity and support and for help with this blog post.