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Pushing myself out of my comfort zone: reflections on my summer internship at a research centre

Katie Warrior in a blue jumper smiling to the camera

Katie Warrior tells us more about her experience of working for the Centre for Cultural Value as a summer intern, and shares her advice to anyone else embarking on an internship. Katie worked with us for six weeks across a range of projects after completing her third year studying BA English Literature at the University of Leeds.

The importance of teamwork, meetings and collaboration – listening, making notes, and getting involved!

Something which stood out to me straight away was how important teamwork was to the way things were ran at the Centre – the weekly team meetings provided real insight into what goes on behind the scenes, from all angles. I learned a lot from listening to the conversations between team members in these meetings.

I also had the opportunity to regularly meet with colleagues which made me feel like part of the team – I learned that jotting down tasks or tips on how to do specific things during these meetings was really important, as I could refer back to them and not forget anything.

As much as being an intern can be nerve wracking at first, and you may feel silly giving your perspective on something, it is important to remember that you are there for a reason and that your thoughts and ideas are valued. I found this difficult initially, but my confidence grew massively over the course of the six weeks.

New skills and navigating software – research, asking questions and practice.

Throughout my internship I gained digital and research experience, and I am coming away from the placement having developed new skills. One of which was the introductory training I had with WordPress, and the first-hand practice I was able to gain by completing various tasks using the software.

I was also involved in the early stages of a video project linked to the Centre’s everyday creativity research digest, and the early stages of scoping for a future digest focused on lifelong engagement with creativity. Both projects pushed me out of my comfort zone and were incredibly rewarding. Researching and pinpointing potential stakeholders was a particularly challenging but insightful task, and I learned the importance of reaching out for help from your team when needed.

The social media and communications aspect of the role was really interesting and has opened up potential new career routes for me. Being on both sides of the process and being able to see the real-time discussions that were taking place in the cultural sector via the Centre’s social media platforms helped me to see first-hand the value of the work that was being done.

Working from home full-time – the benefits and challenges of working remotely.

After spending the past two years studying for my degree during the pandemic, I have definitely gotten used to working from home. However, completing an internship remotely was a slightly different experience as I had a full-time working schedule.

One thing which I found really helpful was to create a to do list for my week, and then individual ones each day to keep me on track. Although this is not possible for everyone, I found not working in my bedroom (as I have done a lot over the past 2 years) helped to keep me focussed and allowed me to compartmentalise my home environment.

There are definitely many benefits to working from home, and one thing I particularly enjoyed was being able to get stuck into my work first thing and make the most of the time I had.

Preparation for the future

Working as an intern for the past six weeks at the Centre for Cultural Value has been incredibly insightful, and I have learned so much from being involved with various projects and witnessing the wide range of work done by such a fantastic team. Not only am I leaving with new skills and experience, but I feel as though I have stepped away from my comfort zone and as a result am much more confident about my post-university career plans.

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