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Young Woman plans ahead to secure a Canadian Internship

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Hello! My name is Juliane and I am 23 years old from Berlin, Germany! I have muscular dystrophy and have been in a wheelchair since I was 14 years old.

Currently I am in my 4th semester of Inclusive Education Degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. As part of my studies I have to complete a 20 week internship in the social field and this has brought me to Victoria, BC. I have always loved to travel and the furthest west I had been to was Lanzarote Island, which is part of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. I wanted to go as far west as I could so Victoria seemed like a good place to start and the internship was the perfect opportunity to get to know another country and its culture. Being away from home for such a long time is a once in a lifetime chance and I just had to do it.

But as easy as it may seem it was not that simple to get to Canada. It has been a long and bumpy road. Here are some nerve-wracking things that happened along the way! First of all I had to find a suitable internship placement, which considered not only my special needs because of my disability, but also fit the requirements of the department of my University. After almost six and a half months of intensive searching, I found my internship at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre. It started in April and ends in August so I have one month left!

The next step was to find a wheelchair accessible accommodation and it turned out to be really difficult. With my small scholarship, I couldn’t afford to pay $4000 a month for the first place I found. There had to be an alternative. And fortunately there was, by using Cathy La France’s (Director of Programs & Services, VDRC) help I was able to stay in a sweet old age residence, which is mostly accessible. You have to expect that nothing will be exactly like home! At the same time I was trying to find further financial support. Because I am severely disabled and need 24 hour assistance as well as special equipment, I asked the German Academic Exchange Service (in German: DAAD) to support my disability-related additional needs. Originally the support would have only been a small part and the rest I would have had to pay out of my own pocket. At home I get financial assistance for everyday life at University from the Student Union. After a long battle, my additional assistance money was also approved. This was lucky; otherwise the search for appropriate assistance would have been even more difficult.

Overall, it proved to be very beneficial to start planning a year before the internship. After two years of the idea sitting in my head, what I have learned is you have to be persistent and try to influence other people that your plans are possible. I would not say the process has been easy, but with some confidence and persuasion, you can be ready for anything. The one thing I know is that I will never regret this!

-Juliane

Juliane showed perseverance in her determination to secure a worthwhile internship in her desired location.  It shows that some planning, organization and dedication can help to bring you closer to succeeding in your goals. Congratulations Juliane!

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