Completing an internship during a pandemic

Laptop screen showing participants in an online meeting. A green coffee mug is next to the laptop.

Guest blog written by Idil Mohamud, BA French and Arabic (2020)

After completing my French and Arabic degree at the University of Manchester, I wanted to gain experience in the international development sector. I’d taken modules in the field and really wanted the chance to see what working in a global development organisation would be like. I was excited to secure an internship with Development Pathways in 2021!

Nevertheless, starting an internship from my bedroom, rather than the workplace, was quite daunting. How would I know what to do? Would it be difficult to build relationships with co-workers? Would I get the ‘real’ internship experience? In the end, everything turned out great, but it certainly didn’t come without its challenges!

Handling the ten-second commute

On the one hand, starting an internship from home can be a rather comforting idea; you don’t have to worry as much about the nerve-wracking first day in the office, or the busy early-morning commute. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things to fret over.

I remember worrying about what I would do if I was confused about a task, or what if my internet disconnected mid-meeting, and whether I would have to be on Zoom calls all day. I soon realised that I had nothing to worry about, because I was working remotely, a lot of effort was put into welcoming me from day one – and it was much more than sitting on video calls.

During my onboarding in my first week, I met most of the team, and it was clear who to contact for guidance and support. Thanks to that, pretty much all my fears vanished within a matter of days; I felt ready, and excited to tackle the work.

Did remote working affect my internship goals?

Almost a year later, I can happily say that I was able to achieve most, if not all, of my main aims, which were: to understand more about the development sector, publish some of my own pieces of work, and become more confident in my abilities. I got involved in interesting, impactful work from day one, starting with a big project making the case for inclusive social protection in the Middle East and North Africa.

Through shadowing my teammates’ work, researching and facilitating an international training course, I had the chance to learn how the development sector works, as well as how policies are implemented and designed. One piece of work involved evaluating the effectiveness of pensions and how they could be improved. I felt like my inputs were valued and respected, which motivated me to continue working hard.

I learnt so much in a short amount of time, and although my work was remote, I was still able to build connections with my workmates. At the end of the day, it’s all about making the effort to reach out to others, be it work-related or more personal. We are always reminded of the importance of networking, especially within development work, but who knew this was achievable through an informal, coffee break chat – a metre from my bed.

Top tips for future interns:

  1. Take as many opportunities as you can from the start. If a colleague asks for your support on a project that interests you, don’t refuse out of fear of not knowing enough. Most of the work I took part in during the beginning of my internship was completely new to me, but I saw it as an opportunity to learn and gain valuable experience.
  2. Seize the opportunity! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about next steps after university, but internships are there to help give us a better idea of potential things to do while building skills and meaningful connections along the way.
  3. Remember that internships are a learning experience. They provide a fantastic opportunity to find out what you are truly passionate about!

Remember that you can access the Careers Service as a student and for up to two years after you finish your course. This includes access to career guidance appointments, application advice and on-demand services on the Careers Service website and CareerConnect.

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