We’ve put together a list of some of the most common questions we get about WAYK internships and Summer Language Intensive projects. We hope that anyone who’s interested in applying for an internship with WAYK can find the answer to some of their burning questions below. If you have a question that’s not answered, please let us know by emailing interns@whereareyourkeys.org

Q: When are WAYK internships offered? 

WAYK internships are primarily offered during the summer months, as a part of the annual Summer Intensive.

Summers tend to be the best time for us to mount a big language project in a community. Many of the learners we are targeting are in high school or college and have less time for language during the academic year. For a community to get the most out of a big project, we need people to be engaged with language every day, essentially on a full-time basis. Planning these projects for the summer helps us get more people involved. Also, it has the additional benefit of being when people from outside the community (often students) are available to come and join the language project as interns.

Occasionally we have the opportunity to bring people with us for other, shorter events during the fall, winter, and spring. So far this has been on a limited, invitation-only basis. However, we are hopeful that in the future we can offer internships at another time of year to accommodate more varied schedules of people who want to get involved.

Q: What is a WAYK Summer Intensive? Why is it called an “Intensive”? 

A Summer Intensive is usually the culmination of WAYK’s engagement with a partner community. We never do a Summer Intensive as our first engagement with a community, but build up to it with regular visits over a period of years. Relationships are usually well-established by the time we launch a Summer Intensive. Likewise, a Summer Intensive is never the final visit we have with a community. WAYK’s involvement winds down over the course of a series of follow-up visits (TQ: Fade to Black). This way we can continue to support the community as they transition out of the Summer Intensive and implement strategies and curriculum that were developed over the course of the summer.

We like to say that a WAYK Summer Intensive is like a “language flashmob.” After working with a host community to develop projects and goals for the summer, the WAYK team arrives with interns who expand the workforce available to complete these projects and accomplish goals. A big event like a Summer Intensive can be a rallying point for the community, something to get excited about and build towards, and it can offer an infusion of energy and support especially if there’s a small language team that’s been working in relative isolation. The Summer Intensive can be a great entry point; it’s a good reason to get people who’ve been interested in language to finally get involved, and because there will be other beginners there, people don’t feel alone when they join in. Our hope is that, for a defined period of time, a bigger team can help support a movement and build momentum that will continue after the summer is over.

We call it a Summer Intensive because…well, it can be pretty intense! For community members who join the team, it’s a full-time commitment focused on language. For anyone who’s never learned another language, this kind of exposure can make people very Full! For the WAYK interns who join the team, it’s well beyond a full-time job, given that our team lives together as housemates and many of our trainings, practice, and conversations spill over into our evenings and weekends. Over the course of the summer, WAYK interns get the experience of working directly with a community on language revitalization, but they also get the most comprehensive training in WAYK methods that we can provide. We want to make the most of the time people volunteer and the money that’s contributed, so we try to make room for a lot of things during our time together.

For people eager to spend 11-12 full weeks engaged in the work of revitalization and discussions about it, this is a great opportunity, but it’s definitely not for everyone. We try to be as honest and upfront as possible about the expectations and the time commitment, so that, even though a Summer Intensive is hard to fully describe in advance, our interns have a clear sense of what they’re signing up for.

Q: Why does WAYK bring interns from other places to join the Summer Intensive host community?

There are a couple of big reasons why WAYK brings interns from outside of a host community to join the summer intensive. The first is the benefits outside interns can provide to the host community during the Summer Intensive itself. While it might seem counterintuitive for people without a direct connection to join the project, outside interns have much to offer precisely because of their lack of connection.

  • Critically, outside interns who are true beginners in a language can be a tremendous support for novice learners within the community. These local learners may have strong emotional attachment to their language, and the stakes can be very high. Outside interns are certainly invested in the project, but their attachment to the language itself is not as deep, since they know they’re only there for a short time. As a result, they can help create a comfortable, fun, and safe learning environment and also encourage the local team to be bold and fearless in their quest for language.
  • Likewise, when community members are beginning to teach language lessons, they will need guinea pigs (or as Aquilina Lestenkof of St. Paul Island puts it “crash test dummies”) for both their lessons and their teaching skills. When you’re teaching members of your own community, again, the stakes are higher because there are only so many potential learners out there. You want to make sure that you don’t exhaust everyone’s goodwill during your early days of testing lessons, when the road is still a little bumpy. But interns from outside of the community are ready for the bumpy road and are there to help make it smoother. They make great crash test dummies! Our summer team will practice lessons together and polish them before teaching them at a community event. This ensures that the wider community has positive experiences with language and keep coming back to language events.
  • Because WAYK interns don’t have family connections or obligations in the host community, sometimes they are able to help keep the ball rolling during the Summer Intensive when an important community event pulls the local team away from the project. In the past, we have seen this happen during big annual meetings, funerals, church holidays, the subsistence harvest, etc. In both small and big ways, the interns are there to help maintain momentum.
  • Finally, visiting interns bring with them a variety of experiences and skills, not to mention a new set of eyes to help with whatever projects or challenges come up.

The second big reason we bring visitors is so that the benefits of a Summer Intensive can extend even beyond the host community. Many local language teams that we have partnered with in past Summer Intensives are knocking it out of the park: bringing more people into their movement, continuing to build lessons, expand their curriculum, make new speakers, and develop new skills. But when we zoom out to look at all of the communities whose languages are threatened, we see that the local team members are in a tight spot—even though they want to help other communities and have the skills to do so, their hands are more than full with the work that needs to be done on their own language. However, if a Summer Intensive includes both community members and outside interns we can multiply our impact. Visiting interns more able to travel to different communities to share what they’ve learned. This is why, each year, we bring at least one “returning” intern with us who already experienced a Summer Intensive. In fact, many of our internship alumni have come to us from other Indigenous communities whose languages are also threatened. While they may not have direct family connections in our host community, they face the same challenges at home and are able to take what they’ve learned during the Summer Intensive and apply it to their own languages.

Q: How many internships does WAYK offer each year? 

WAYK aims to offer between 3-6 internship positions each summer, with 1 or 2 of these positions going to “returning” interns. The exact number depends on the needs of the community and the project, the budget available, and logistical considerations (how much housing is available, how expensive travel is per person, etc.). These interns join a local team during the Intensive, making our full team anywhere from 10-20 people or more.

Q: How are the WAYK interns funded?

Since 2015, all WAYK internships have been generously sponsored by the host community and their partner organizations. Funds may come from several sources; it depends on the community, the specific focus of our projects, and the goals of that particular Summer Intensive. This means the host community pays for the interns’ travel and lodging costs, as well as a meal stipend to cover food and incidentals throughout the trip. To be crystal clear, at this point in time WAYK internships are not paid; interns are volunteering their time in exchange for extensive experience and valuable training. However, Summer Intensive interns should not have to spend their own funds on the project in order to participate.

While “intern” is the word we currently use to describe these positions, it’s not quite the right one. In the past, we have sometimes referred to our summer team members as “volunteers,” or “practicum students.” They might even be considered “apprentices” or “trainees.” We haven’t yet found a word that captures the full experience of volunteering in the community, training with WAYK, mentoring youth, building transferable skills, and—for someone who is interested in language revitalization—doing valuable and meaningful field work.

Q: Who benefits from a WAYK Internship? What does the community get out of it? What do the interns get out of it? What does WAYK get out of it? 

Ideally, the host community, the WAYK interns, and WAYK all benefit from coming together for the summer intensive. However, when we’re making decisions about the summer, our guiding concern is usually what is best for the host community.

We mentioned above several of the ways that bringing outside interns benefits the host community. The community gets motivated, smart, kind volunteers, many of whom bring specialized skills with them. They get forgiving and compassionate students to test their lessons on. They get an infusion of energy and new ideas. Additionally, the expanded team means there are many extra hands (and minds!) to help complete projects chosen for the Summer Intensive.

There are also many benefits for the interns that join our summer team. First, these participants have the opportunity for hands-on participation in a language revitalization project. We believe that this experience is worthwhile for anyone who is interested in creating or supporting a language program in another community (especially their own). The length of the project gives interns a chance to engage with many aspects of language work, and develop a solid “bag of tricks” to bring home.  WAYK team members also build relationships with community members and their fellow interns. The world of language revitalization is pretty small, and there is a good chance that Summer Intensive participants will know each other for a long time and their paths will intersect again and again! Finally, for anyone who is interested in the WAYK method, this is the most comprehensive training in WAYK that we offer at this time. We should say that, while a summer’s exposure to WAYK is awesome, we’ve found it’s not enough time to share everything we would like to with our interns! Because introductory WAYK workshops are infrequent and often limited to a specific community, this is a great opportunity for someone to get a solid foundation in the WAYK method.

WAYK also benefits from having interns join our team for the summer. The biggest benefit is that interns help us help a community. Most of the interns’ energy and effort is directed toward furthering the goals of the host community.

One additional short-term benefit that WAYK gets from our summer team is blog posts. During most of the year, the WAYK team is fully engaged on site with partner communities, and we have extremely limited time to share ideas on our website and social media. When interns write about the WAYK method and their experiences for the WAYK website, it helps us keep new posts coming out throughout the year. These posts are both informational, to help explain WAYK strategies and Techniques for interested readers, and motivational, to share experiences and reflections with others who are engaged in the work of language revitalization.

In the long-term, the benefit that WAYK gets from Summer Interns is more people who know how to facilitate trainings and projects like this. We hope that some of our interns may return to train with us again and perhaps down the road eventually become authorized presenters. However, we do NOT expect that everyone who joins us for a Summer Intensive will want to work with us in the future. We are investing our time in people who we think will go on to help communities, whether it’s in a field related to language revitalization or doing something completely different. We do hope that a percentage of people who participate in a Summer Intensive will want to work with us again in the future in some capacity.

Q: Can I get academic credit for a WAYK internship? 

A few of our internship alumni were able to arrange to get academic credit when they participated in the Summer Intensive. Typically someone needs to be enrolled in a program that allows them to do an independent study, fieldwork, or some other kind of practicum. If an intern wishes to make these arrangements, we will talk with them and their academic advisor/practicum supervisor several times before the summer about how to integrate their academic work into the Summer Intensive. There’s definitely a balancing act involved in getting academic credit for the summer, namely, how to make sure that academic requirements don’t take precedence over the needs of the host community. If you’re someone who is considering this possibility, please be aware it does create an added burden on your time and energy for the summer.

At this point in time, WAYK is not able to directly arrange for Summer Intensive participants to receive academic credit, but this is something we are considering for the future.

Q: What’s the time commitment to participate in a Summer Intensive? 

Summer Intensives are definitely a big time commitment. In fact, we’ve written a whole blog post about the schedule for the summer. If you’re thinking about applying for a summer internship, this post is a must-read.

To reiterate a few key points:

  • Summer Intensives last 11-12 weeks. During this time, we’ll be working on the project 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. We’ll also have activities for the WAYK team in the evenings and on at least one weekend day, so there’s not a lot of unscheduled time. We do our best to balance the time that people need to recharge with getting the most of the time we have together. It’s not for everyone, so if you’re someone who needs a lot of downtime and/or alone time, this might not be a good match for you. If, however, you are someone who is willing to be completely immersed in language revitalization for almost three months, this may be the perfect project for you!
  • Again, the Summer Intensive is highly scheduled and we’ll be using a schedule that the host community has asked us to design (in consultation with them, of course). If you are someone who needs to have a lot of agency over your own time, again, this might not be a good match for you.
  • We do our best to plan for the Summer Intensive in advance, but the work that we do can also be unpredictable. Some of our scheduling will depend extensively on the availability of fluent speakers, and so we will need to work together as a team to adapt to changing circumstances and still accomplish our goals.
Q: Can my family and friends come and visit? 

The short answer: Sorry, but no, they can’t visit. We do not have the time or the space to accommodate visits from family and friends.

The longer answer: We know that 11 weeks is a long time to be away from your family and friends. However, since our summer is highly scheduled and focused on the goals of our host community, we ask that interns not have guests primarily because of the time commitment that we’re making. If guests did come, it would force our interns to divide their time and either the host community or their guests would get the short end of the stick. We circumvent that possibility by asking our interns not to invite guests in the first place. Also, many of our past Summer Intensive host communities (e.g., Atka, St. Paul Island) are not typical tourist destinations, and special arrangements may need to be made before tourists can visit. We haven’t been able to have additional visitors stay at the WAYK house, it can be a burden on our hosts to make arrangements for additional visitors, and sometimes it’s just logistically impossible.

That being said, the 2019 Summer Intensive will be in Vancouver, a very accessible community compared to some of our Summer Intensive sites in recent years. If family and friends want to join you in Vancouver, we request that they come either before our project begins or after the project has ended.

Q: Will there be training/orientation before the internship begins?

Yes. We will arrange for 6-7 video/teleconferences before the Summer Intensive begins that will involve the summer WAYK team and members of the local team. These conversations are designed to start building our team dynamic before the summer starts so that we can hit the ground running when everyone arrives in May. During these video conferences, we will introduce all members of the team and talk about the community’s goals for the summer and our team and individual goals for the summer. We will also discuss the history of the language and community as well as the history of WAYK’s partnership with the community. We ask that everyone attend all videoconferences prior to the summer since important information will be distributed. We will also record these videoconferences for the team’s reference.

Once we arrive in the host community, the first week of the summer will be an orientation week, designed to familiarize the team with WAYK concepts and Techniques. We often use a demonstration language as part of the orientation week (i.e., a language unrelated to the focus language for the summer) so that we can focus on method over language. We’ll also use this time as orientation for any community members who are joining the project for the first time.

Q: What if a Summer Intensive is not for me?  Can I still join WAYK for a project?

We realize that an 11-week program is not for everyone who is interested in training with WAYK and working with a host community. It’s a long time to be away from home, family, and friends, and it’s also a long time to be away from a job/income. Living and working together with our small team is also a big commitment, and the intensity of the schedule is not a good match for everyone.

As mentioned above, we are sometimes able to bring interested participants with us for a shorter period (typically one or two weeks) of time throughout the academic year, almost a “mini-internship”. As of now, we are not able to offer these shorter “mini-internships” consistently, since it is not always logistically possible or in the best interests of a partner community. We do hope to offer more opportunities for shorter-term projects in the future. If this is something you are interested in, please email us at interns@whereareyourkeys.org.

Q: How do I apply for a WAYK internship? 

The application period for a spot on the WAYK summer team is usually open for a period of 4-6 weeks during the December and January preceding the summer project. For all applicants, we will ask you to provide some basic biographical information, your work experience (up to three), and your education experience (if applicable). We also have some longer questions about what languages you know/work with and why you’re interested in a WAYK summer. You can choose to write your answers to these longer questions or, if you prefer, you can make a short video to talk about your answers to these questions. You can submit the written portion of your application directly through our website and you can upload video portion through Dropbox. The application page gives further instructions about how to complete these steps.

Once your application has been submitted it will be reviewed by our selection committee (members of the WAYK team and the local team). We then contact the applicants we think would be the best match for the project to schedule an interview.

Q: How do interviews work?

Once the selection committee has reviewed all of the applications, we typically contact between 8 and 12 people to interview, depending on the number of internship positions we have to fill. If you are contacted for an interview, you will receive an email with instructions on how to sign up for an interview time. In an effort to thoroughly vet our internship candidates we do run long interviews; they usually last about 90 min. We use a platform called Zoom for our interviews, which lets participants with WiFi join us for a video interview, and anyone with a slower internet connection join us by phone. We will typically have 3-4 members of our selection committee present for the interview but will record our conversation so that the other members of the committee can review it.

In the interview itself, we will first review the expectations and talk about some caveats for the summer (which applicants will already have accepted as part of their application). Next, we ask applicants to expand on a few parts of their written/video applications that we’d like to know more about. Next, we have a standard set of 5 questions that we ask in every interview. Finally, we allow time for the applicant to ask questions about the project, the host community, and/or WAYK.

Q: How do you choose your interns?

In selecting interns for a summer project, our top concern is matching people, skills, and personalities to the community and our team. We want to make sure we have the best people for the project at hand. We are also limited in our selection by space, budgets, and logistics. Many times we have stellar applicants that we would love to work with, but who are not the best fit for the current project.

To be clear, prospective interns do not need to have a degree or be studying a particular field. While we ask for information about applicant’s work experience, education, and GPA, these questions have less impact on our decisions than the questions about languages, communities, leadership, and your interest in the project. We are looking for language activists, university students, teachers, and others with a variety of skills and interests including language acquisition, education, linguistics, neuroscience, computer programming, film, theater, writing, and beyond!

Strong applicants are open-minded and sensitive to other cultures and cultural protocols, take feedback and criticism well, work well as part of a team, know how to take the spotlight as a leader and how to help discreetly from behind the scenes, and are somehow both realistic and optimistic about the uphill battle of language revitalization. The ideal WAYK intern is someone who has a great sense of humor, is self-aware, flexible, adaptable, and, above all, ethical and honorable.

Q: Is the host community involved in intern selection? 

Yes, we do our best to involve the host community in the intern selection process. While we invite the host community to be involved in each step of the intern selection process, it is quite time-consuming and we don’t want to take them away from their daily language commitments. A few select members of the local team join our selection committee and we share all of the applications with them. We’ll check in with them during the process of selecting finalists to interview. Then, members of the local team will join in on as many of the interviews as they are able to. Once the interviews are complete we will meet as a committee to make our final choices.

Q: Are homestays part of the Summer Intensive? 

This is a great question! Homestays are definitely a great idea for getting fluent in a language, and if personal fluency is your goal, we 100% recommend seeking out an immersion homestay.

The goal for most WAYK interns is not personal fluency in our focus language, but rather learning skills and techniques for language revitalization and supporting our host community’s learners. Homestays would be a great idea for those local learners—if they have a relative who is a fluent speaker, we strongly encourage them to seek out a living situation where they can maximize their exposure to the language. Can they live with their relative for a while in exchange for helping with chores, cooking, and cleaning? This is definitely an ideal situation for a local learner, but less important (and sort of an imposition) when it comes to the WAYK interns. Also, while a lot of our time during the summer is devoted to the language, we need to be able to engage in the meta-conversation about language revitalization in English. By living in the WAYK house, you are not in a language immersion situation, but you are immersed in the work and theory of language revitalization all of the time.

There is the potential for a future Summer Intensive project to be focused on building an immersion house, where learners and WAYK interns live together. While not quite the same thing as a homestay, this is definitely an idea we’re interested in! Every summer, we design the WAYK house to have elements that are transferable to an immersion house environment, so even if we’re not living in immersion, we’re practicing the skills that would make it easier to do so.

Q: What will photos, video, and audio from the Summer Intensive be used for? 

The media we collect from the summer serves two main purposes. One is to provide a record of the summer’s events to the communities, agencies, and entities that are supporting or funding the project. The photos and videos we collect are useful for newsletters and reports and are used when these entities share with the larger communit about what we’ve done during a summer. WAYK will also use some photos on our website and social media. We like to take lots of photos and video so that we have many good ones to choose from at the end of the summer! To this end, all participants will be asked to sign a media waiver.

The other use of media from the summer, particularly audio and notes from language sessions (but sometimes also photos and video) is documentation of the language. We record as many of our sessions with fluent speakers as possible and these recordings, along with our notes, can be valuable resources for learners in the community. We’ll collect all of the participants audio and notes at the end of the summer and share these with the host community so they can access them in the future.

Q: Is this an anthropology/linguistics internship? 

Nope! While many of our applicants are studying anthropology or linguistics, and while the Summer Intensive may be useful to students in these fields, the internship is not designed as something strictly for linguists or anthropologists.

To be super clear: We are not linguists or anthropologists. The purpose of the summer is not research. While documentation of languages does take place as part of a summer intensive, it is not the primary focus of the summer.

Because we are not anthropologists, are not conducting research, and our primary goal is not documentation, we have a different set of ethical obligations to our host community. An anthropologist might abide by the American Anthropological Association’s Principles of Professional Responsibility, which states: “Anthropologists should not only avoid causing direct and immediate harm but also should weigh carefully the potential consequences and inadvertent impacts of their work. When it conflicts with other responsibilities, this primary obligation can supersede the goal of seeking new knowledge and can lead to decisions to not undertake or to discontinue a project.” Rather, we travel to communities who have invited us to share WAYK methods, strategies, and Techniques with their speakers and learners. Our priority is not new knowledge for ourselves or the public, but new learners, speakers, and teachers for the host community and their neighbors. While we are not trying to meddle or interfere, it’s our job to share our ideas and implement suggestions, not simply to observe.

Please let us know if you have any additional questions about the summer language intensive and the internships themselves or the internship process. You can also check out our related posts about the expectations for interns, about the summer schedule, and about the current project and internships. To apply for the 2019 Summer Intensive, click here.

Written by Evan Gardner