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Internship as a Mean for Integration. A Critical Study

Journal article
Authors Hala Alaraj
Majsa Allelin
Matilda Amundsen Bergström
Camilla Brudin Borg
Published in Journal of International Migration and Integration
Volume 20
Issue 2
Pages 323-340
ISSN 1488-3473
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Department of Social Work
Pages 323-340
Language en
Keywords Internship, Labor market, Integration, Sweden, Skills, Workplace culture
Subject categories Sociology, International Migration and Ethnic Relations, Work Sciences, Cultural Studies


Creating internships for newly arrived refugees and immigrants is a well-established part of the Swedish national integration program and is seen as a strategy to speed up immigrants’ establishment process. One common belief is that the workplace is expected to give the newly arrived trainee necessary language training, as well as contextual and cultural knowledge. Here, the transferring direction of knowledge is from the Swedish workplace to the receiving newly arrived trainee. However, it is rarely discussed whether the trainee will bring valuable knowledge to the organization, or what the relational aspects of the internship should look like. In this paper, we develop the analysis of internships as a mean for integration in Sweden, by analyzing what trainees and their supervisors experience in terms of knowledge transfer and development. By interviewing trainees (4) and supervisors (5), the aim of this paper is to discuss ideas and practices in an internship program for refugees that The University of Gothenburg started in 2015. The interviews focus on the structural and organizational level, though individual experiences also play a central role. Theoretically, the analysis is interdisciplinary and a cross-cut between organizational theory and cultural studies, especially the work of Sara Ahmed. Our results show that the trainee is seen both as a resource and as someone who represents multiculturalism, hospitality, and the altruism of the university and its employees. The trainee is expected not only to integrate in a productive way, but also to stand out in non-productive areas, such as the social context.

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