"It's one of the best learning experiences you'll have at university. It's not like anything else you'll do."

Alex Arnold didn’t know the Men’s Resource Centre in Albany existed until he saw the internship advertised on the McCusker Centre for Citizenship website earlier this year. That moment he knew it was the internship for him – combining his interest in the Mental Health Sector with the skills he had learned during his studies.

“I'd been looking for internships for a while and I couldn't find one that fit, then when I found the internship in Albany it ticked all the boxes!” Alex explains.

“Physical health, mental health, social health – you can't be a healthy person without all three and I think a lot of people, especially men, just think about physical health and they don't talk about mental health as much. “I wanted an internship in the mental health sector this one also used the skills I had through my Bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering.”

The Engineering Masters student spent four weeks over the Winter break completing his 100-hour McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship. His project was to revamp the Men’s Resource Centre’s website and create an app to provide men around the world with tools to help them manage their mental health.

His experience, however, was much broader than just software development.

Alex was exposed to the day-to-day workings of the centre – from going on bike rides with Grant, the centre’s CEO, and the men participating in the Positive Mentoring Program, to helping out during the centre’s Wellness Checks in the community.

He even got to put some of the communications skills he learned during his computer science degree into practice, when he realised the scope of the project meant he wouldn’t finish it within the allotted time.

“One thing we've learned through our computer science degree is communication,” Alex says. “Software isn't something you can see, it's only at the end when you get it most of the time. “The app was a pretty big undertaking but they didn't realise that initially, and for a bit I didn't realise either.”

Alex successfully managed his supervisor’s expectations by explaining the complexities of app development in lay-man’s terms – important experience not all software developers get before they step into the working world – and came up with a workable solution. The app is now in its final stages of development and Alex has made sure Grant and the Men’s Resource Centre team are equipped to update its content whenever they need.

Alex’s insight into the work the Men’s Resource Centre does and the not-for-profit sector has given him a clear idea of the types of organisations he’ll apply for, when he finishes university.

“Being involved in their work a huge learning experience,” Alex says. “It made me think more about the company I want to work for. “Now, I'm looking to see what they do from a volunteering perspective too.”

So what would he say to someone considering applying?

“It's one of the best learning experiences you'll have at university. It's not like anything else you'll do. A lot of companies want to find people to fit their culture, and something like this internship gives you the sorts of experience you can't learn at university.

“It's no good just being technically skilled, you have to be a good person and good communicator too – I think the McCusker Centre for Citizenship internships are invaluable.”

Do you want to gain credit AND help the community at the same time? McCusker Centre for Citizenship is accepting applications for Summer Internships now. Click here for more information.

An edited version of this story was also published in the Weekend Courier here

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