Within any vocational university degree, a placement in a workplace normally forms an integral part of developing professional skills and provides an opportunity for students to put into practice theoretical knowledge they have acquired through academic courses. For student mothers, keeping up with their studies whilst juggling their domestic responsibilities can become even more challenging than usual during work placements. This paper aims to document the narratives of ten student mothers who have been carrying out workplace internships in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This paper uses qualitative methodology to explore, by interview, the experiences of student mothers undertaking a 12-week teaching internship during their final degree year. The study aimed to document the factors which have allowed the students to successfully complete their internships, as well as their comparative thoughts on the differences between college and workplace settings. An additional aim was to find out the student mothers’ own suggestions and advice to institutions, and to others in their situations, to optimize support and preparation prior to work placements.
It was found that while the student mothers experienced stresses such as arranging childcare, coping with different commutes and working schedule patterns, peers and school mentor teachers were an enormous source of support and empathy for the students. Supportive school mentors often influenced the students’ outcomes. Personal emotional reserves and intrinsic motivation were also key to success. Ways in which student mothers can be supported and retained by both workplaces and educational institutions are discussed.
The study of student mothers is unique both in its geographical context and in that the study looks specifically at both how they cope with the challenges of the workplace and how this is experienced differently to their normal lives at university.
The author would like to sincerely thank the student mothers who gave up their time to participate in these interviews, as well as the anonymous article reviewers for their thoughtful and insightful comments. Finally, thanks to Dr Lilly Tennant for assistance with the data collection phase of the study.
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