Our New Zealand (love) story
February 5, 2019

A journey that changed my life forever

Name: Cis VO
Age: 20
Nationality: Belgian
Degree: Bachelor’s in Social Educational Care Work
Internship period: August 2012 – December 2012

In August of 2012 I embarked on a journey that would change my life forever. After months of preparation, I flew to New Zealand to start my 5 months internship with Spectrum Care. Being in my final year of my Bachelor of Social Education Care Work at Plantijn University of Applied Sciences, we have a full semester gaining work experience by completing an internship. For some reason I desperately wanted to go to Australia or New Zealand (I still don’t know why, maybe it was an excuse to have two summers in one year?). After some researching I came across Spectrum Care, an organisation that provides services for people with disabilities.

Supporting people with disabilities was a big part of my Bachelor education, and I was very interested. I got in contact with Mia Barr, the internship coordinator of Spectrum Care at the time. How can I describe her? She was (and still is) an incredibly warm, skilled, kind and supportive person. From helping with arranging practicalities such as accomodation, transport and the actual internship of course, to supporting me the whole way from beginning to end……and her Danish cakes and pastries are delicious by the way!

I interned as a Community Support Worker in a residential home in Auckland. Five people with intellectual disabilities and/or mental health challenges lived there. The goal was to help support the people to live amazing lives. The staff and organisation were a joy to work with. The working roster was amazing. Every fortnight there were 5 consecutive days off so that we could enjoy all what New Zealand had to offer beyond the internship. This resulted in a lot of roadtrips to explore all of New Zealand. The country is such an incredible place. The people are so friendly and laid back, the nature and scenery so stunning and the culture is so diverse. Probably one of my highlights was hitchhiking all over the country for 40 days after my internship ended.

As I said earlier, this experience changed my life and it is not an exaggeration. I still have close friends from that time and I met my present day girlfriend also during that time. Besides that, I think I became a more open-minded and positive person. Also professionaly, this experience has definitely been an assett as a lot of employers were interested in my story of that time. After working for some time in the field, I’m actually returning to New Zealand for the first time after 6 years for another backpacking trip. This ‘second home’ is always going to have a special place in my heart.

Thanks again Mia, for evertything.

Cheers, Cis