Shortly after completing my degree in Business Management, I applied for an internship with the University of Hull. The internship was to review student Canvas courses against a standards framework. This involved reviewing 1139 2023/24 T1 courses and documenting how teaching materials were organised, what information was shared with students, clarity of headings, naming conventions and accessibility. While I've had various jobs before, one aspect which set this job apart was that it was remote. Beyond the expected skill development, my experience as a remote intern brought along a handful of lessons that I'd like to share.
Lesson 1: Plans may change; stay adaptable and ask for help when necessary.
I received an interview for this job while visiting family in the Middle East this summer. Being 3,815 miles away from my interviewer wasn’t in the plan. But, after navigating time zones and battling terrible internet connection, the interview went well, and I was offered the job. Unfortunately, my brother Adam fell ill during our time away, preventing my return to the UK for the start date. Having previously worked in farming and hospitality, where I was like a replaceable cog in a rigid machine, I expected the offer to be rescinded. To my surprise, the University was incredibly accommodating, and Tom, my supervisor, pushed the start date back until Adam recovered. All it took was asking and being flexible when the situation was out of my control.
Speaking of flexibility, some people (myself included, 10 weeks ago) might assume that remote working and having flexible hours are easy, which brings me to my next lesson...
Lesson 2: Remote work needs discipline.
With just two scheduled meetings a week and a rough date completion date for the course audit, I had the freedom to manage my time. One of the first things Tom warned me about was that the reviewing would be tedious. He was right. It was by no means a glamorous job, and despite his advice to work in two-hour blocks, I initially found myself pulling 8-hour marathons, staring at the screen as my brain and back screamed in protest. So, I re-evaluated my routine, experimented with breaking up my day in different ways, and then settled on two 3-hour working slots in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, with exercise breaks in between. This adjustment improved my productivity, alleviated my back pain, and boosted my mood. However, it took some time to figure out the routine that worked best for me and took discipline to resist staying in bed during the cold mornings!
Another important thing I was quite strict about was scheduling time for friends at least once a week. This, along with the people I worked with, helped me avoid feeling lonely during my remote internship, bringing me to the last lesson I learned.
Lesson 3: The people you work with make your experience.
I've been through the spectrum of jobs, from the good to the not-so-great. I've had jobs that, at least on paper, seemed more aligned with my career goals than the internship. It got me thinking: what made my intern experience more enjoyable than these seemingly better-suited positions? Turns out, it was the people, particularly my supervisor. Even through a computer screen, being greeted twice a week by a smiling face and having uplifting conversations makes all the difference in a job. Being told that the work I did held meaning and would benefit lots of future students made me feel valued and motivated to work harder. A couple minutes of pre-meeting small talk set a good tone for the day. It is so interesting how seemingly insignificant moments can have a big impact on your wellbeing, performance, and productivity.
The most surprising part of the internship was the unexpected boost it gave to my personal growth. As a budding entrepreneur, the mentorship, inspiration and support I received was amazing. Tom dedicated one meeting a week to just discuss my aspirations and break down the steps to get there. He didn't stop at discussions; he became my guide in refining my LinkedIn profile, suggesting free courses that aligned with my goals, and even helping me create an Etsy page for my startup. He also invited me to an event where I met the rest of the team. The warmth and friendliness of the staff left a lasting impression, even though my internship was wrapping up in a couple of weeks. The extra mile Tom went has given me more knowledge and confidence in working towards my dreams- something I will always appreciate.
I won’t conclude by insisting that everyone should do an internship like mine. The reason is that loneliness can be a real risk, and I consider myself lucky to have a big network of friends and that I had an extraverted supervisor. For anyone thinking about doing an internship, it is worth bearing in mind. If you lack such a support system, the experience might not be as fulfilling. That being said, my experience was definitely positive, but it was the choices I made that shaped my intern journey. Opting for an internship with the University of Hull opens doors to a number of benefits, but it is your choice whether you take them and make the most of your time.