Physical Therapy Internship Opens Doors for Recent Graduate in Samoa
Earlier this month, Samoa’s rugby team, Manu Samoa, competed against the New Zealand All Blacks in an eagerly anticipated test match, held at Apia Park on July 7th. Although the two nations have always had close ties, the All Blacks had never played in Samoa before now, much to the dismay of the local people, most of whom are passionate fans of the sport. After years of campaigning, the historic match finally took place in a newly refurbished stadium in the heart of Samoa’s capital city, before an audience of 8000 people.
Projects Abroad Samoa has had a working relationship with the Samoa Rugby Union since September 2014, when our physical therapy interns started working with the players. As a result of this partnership, Tobias van der Sar, a Projects Abroad intern from the Netherlands, was asked to join the on-field medical team for the All Blacks vs Manu Samoa rugby game.
Tobias originally came to Samoa to participate on the Physical Therapy internship and during his time abroad, he divided his time between two placements: Fiamalamalama School for the Intellectually and Physically Handicapped and the Samoa Rugby Union. Although he originally planned to stay for three months, Tobias chose to extend his project for a further two months when he was approached by the management of the Samoa Rugby Union to work at the match. “It was an incredible opportunity,” he said, “the most amazing work experience I could have ever asked for.”
This game, which the All Blacks won, was enormously important for Samoa. Not only was it was the first time that the world-famous All Blacks have visited the country, but it also helped cement Samoa’s place in the international rugby community. The national impact of the game was so huge, that the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegao, declared a half-day public holiday for the entire nation!
For Tobias, working with the Samoa Rugby Union provided him with his first professional role since he graduated from Thim Van Der Laan University last September. “I honestly could not have asked for more. Working as a medic allowed me to learn new skills, as well as develop personal traits required in my profession,” he shared, adding, “Being present in the stadium and being part of the atmosphere during the game was phenomenal.”
Tobias’ experience is testament to the career opportunities that interning abroad can provide. Before his time in Samoa, Tobias was not familiar with rugby, as it is not a popular sport in the Netherlands. But following his involvement with the Samoa Rugby Union, he now hopes to join the Samoan team in the UK when they compete in the Rugby World Cup later this year, opening up many doors for his career as a physical therapist!