Friday, August 31, 2012

When lecturers become colleagues

As the end of my first year as an undergraduate approached, like many others, I was befuddled as to how to fill the three and a half long months of life beyond university. Many travel, including myself, to make your summer come alive as you wait for the Fresher’s events at Drapers to resume in mid September. However it dawns on you, that you need to be doing something proactive during this summer break, and the idea of doing an internship quickly becomes prominent.

These mystical internships can be difficult to get and simply the idea of undertaking one can be terrifying. So how did I do it, how did I become an intern at e-Science Talk? And what was it like, was the idea of entering a professional environment as scary as many of our minds like to believe?

A proactive approach to getting an internship is vital. As a first year of a four year Physics MSci my internship opportunities were severely limited, however I had decided that I wanted an internship within the world of science. I quickly found some adverts with the Physics department and quickly set about applying. Within three weeks of applying, and after a 30-minute interview, my first day approached.

I found myself in a science communication position on the 6th floor of the Physics department working for a project called e-Science Talk. My main aim was to market the idea of grid computing and e-Science to a pre-university level. It all sounds good saying that was a “main aim” but what does that exactly mean. You often see a project outline on an internship job description, which leaves you wondering how you will fill the many hours of your time with the project.

Within this project I was given this general brief and asked to come up with my own ideas of how I would achieve this. Much like when a designer is given a project brief. I became in essence a project manager for 6 weeks, largely managing my own time, and producing documents, Web pages, articles and video content to enhance my own marketing strategy. The emphasis should be placed on the term “my marketing strategy” as I created it as part of the process of turning the general brief into a task in hand.

Day to day I felt more and more like one of the team. I dined with people who just a few months before, had given me lectures. I could work on my own if I wished, or spend the day roaming round server rooms, filming what I deemed to be interesting shots. I became used to the life of the professional world.

As the internship draws to a close, the memory of starting the new term comes to forefront of my mind. Seeing friends again who were many hundreds of miles away, and the idea of restarting lectures bellows through my everyday thoughts. But I am sad that the internship is finishing, I feel like I have accomplished so much in these six weeks, and that to leave is a real shame. I also know that the pay cheques will also stop, which for some of the readers, would be an equally terrifying thought!

Doing an internship is not something that that should be terrifying, scary, or induce mild panic attacks; it should be something that every undergraduate aspires to do during those months. Summer should just not be waiting for the bars to reopen, climbing competitions to begin, or the clubs to become repacked. An internship is a learning opportunity, plain and simple, and one that should be grasped with both hands.

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