Making Positive Happen
Many students embark on internships to make connections, learn more about a career, and get a taste of working in the world beyond college. Matthew Davies ’16 got all of that during back-to-back summer internships at a camp for children with special needs and learning disabilities, but he also came away with valuable insight into himself.
Davies, a psychology major with dual concentrations in clinical counseling and behavioral neuroscience, also has a double minor in gender studies and sociology. He began his undergraduate work with Washington College’s Department of Psychology believing he wanted to be a counselor. But now, after his internships at Camp Ramapo in Rhinebeck, New York, and as he applies to graduate school, he’s leaning more toward cognitive neuroscience.
“I have done research doing clinical counseling and it was extremely fulfilling, but I also learned that I cannot detach myself from my clients emotionally, which was really important to learn before I continued pursuing a career path that ultimately I don’t think I was emotionally prepared to do,” he says. “I still love counseling psychology, I just know now where my weaknesses and strengths lie. So I’m interested to see where my weaknesses and strengths lie within the other concentration.”
Davies learned about Camp Ramapo when one his fraternity brothers in Phi Delta Theta told him about his internship there. The camp helps autistic and behaviorally challenged youth and young adults from ages 6 to 25 gain self-confidence and tools they can use to continue to learn and grow.
“You could see who you were working with and you could see that you were going to have an impact,” Davies says. “You could control that something positive was going to happen to this child even if the world had thrown every punch at them; you could control something good happening, even in something as little as two weeks. That was really, really cool, and that was something that drew me to it a lot.”
Over the course of two summers, Davies went from being a general counselor to a “bunk lead” who oversees a group of up to seven campers and the general counselors guiding them. He found he could directly apply what he had learned in class to his work at the camp: “I had real-life examples to connect with the academic literature, which I think has done measures for me. It’s one thing to read something, it’s another to see it and be acting it out and be able to connect those two. I think that’s when understanding really begins.”
His experience at Camp Ramapo “definitely opened my eyes up to the privilege I’ve had in my life growing up. It opened up my eyes to the impact that I can have on children who are non-privileged in general, and it definitely pushed me to my limits, and I realized what I was capable of. These children really do bury themselves deep into your heart, and you can’t stop that from happening no matter how much you try to distance yourself.”
Davies will be applying to graduate schools in hopes of earning a spot in a PhD program.
The past-president of EROS, Davies is the former social chairman of Phi Delta Theta, a member of Psi Chi, the international honors society in psychology, and part of the newly launched group Tango, for members and allies of non-binary and transgender students.