Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme: Final week with ISAS

The end of summer has rolled around I’ve suddenly found myself catapulted from the long days and  organised chaos of Welcome Week with the ISAS office back in to the world of highlighters, note taking and juggling university work, society commitments with The Linguist magazine, volunteering shifts with Fierce Festival and rehearsals at the Crescent Theatre.

My last few weeks as International Welcome Project Intern flew by as I made the last preparations for the new international student community to descend upon the Edgbaston Campus. The logistics of organising events for large and often unpredictable numbers was something I hadn’t anticipated, and work on the airport collection registers didn’t really come to an end until we were on the 6am coach to Heathrow to get Saturday’s arrivals. There were also practical aspects to consider. For example, how many bottles of water do two people need to carry across campus in order for all students on all coaches – over 400 people who had already had long journeys – to feel comfortable. Enough to break a very considerable sweat, as it transpires.  That said, while driving down the M40 on the Sunday evening I realised how important the twenty eight hour weekend and the tops that needed to go straight in to the wash were. I realised that I (and the ten temporary staff helping over Arrivals Weekend) had been entrusted with the first impression of the UK and the University of Birmingham for 450 students who had worked hard and striven to come and study with us, and that is both a huge responsibility and a huge privilege.

boys Kirsten Roebuck
(Mikey and Ben, with whom I spent 28 hours at Heathrow Airport.)

Other than the airport meet and greet service, I was also responsible for organising the Evening Welcome Reception and the Afternoon Cream Tea events. I thoroughly enjoyed liaising with former international students regarding the speeches they would make at the evenings, encouraging them to share their memories and the hurdles they overcame to make the most of their time here, and to encourage the new students to do the same. I also developed my desktop publishing skills, using Lucidpress to create high quality, professional posters to promote these events. The fluctuating numbers for the Cream Tea events meant I had to be in regular contact with catering teams to ensure the final events would run smoothly, and I used my contacts as a student to ensure a presence from home students and society members. Creating and running the ISAS stand for the Welcome Marquee, particularly on International Day allowed me to stretch my creativity yet further. I designed photo scavenger hunts, set up an international themed photo shoot complete with photographer and props, and created a map of UoB’s international presence as students and staff alike attached memories, hopes and messages to the relevant nations across the globe. Being in a position to discuss these cherished memories with people I had never met before was really lovely and made me proud of both the University, and the role I have played in the arrival of this year’s international cohort.

Kirsten Roebuck 2

(One of many great photos captured during the photoshoot I organised for International Day)

Due to a member of the office leaving and another being on paternity leave, I found my role expanded over the last few weeks and this was a real test of my time management and organisation skills. I feel that this experience helped me to develop the way I handle stressful situations, and I’m pleased to say I kept a level head throughout. I have come away from my summer working for the University of Birmingham with a greater appreciation for the demands of employment and, without repeating the things I discussed in my first blog, a whole host of transferable skills that will stand me in great stead for a future in any industry. I also leave with a wonderful group of friends and former colleagues who I will be meeting for lunch later this week!

Kirsten Roebuck
(Manning the ISAS stand on International Day!)

Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme: Final Blog Information Security and Data Management Administrator

So it’s over.  I’ve written my report, conducted my last interview, and finally feel I’ve gotten a clear overall view of the state of Information Security at the College.  I’m already aware of a difference between me and the Sam I was before summer; for instance, I can communicate my ideas more clearly and explain them with a confidence that I didn’t have before. My awareness of myself has also expanded.  The ways I’ve refined how I work, both through self-reflection and through my trusty managers’ suggestions, have given me a much better idea of how my mind works, what motivates me, and my own limits.

Sam Parr 1

Understanding my own capabilities has also helped me understand what can be expected from other people in an organisation, which has fed into my understanding of how an organisation works as a whole.  Before this internship, I’d only had experience of small organisations, often with only two or three levels of hierarchy (e.g. overall manager, sub-manager, general employee).  However, interviewing lots of staff about what they do and looking at this in the relation of everyone else has helped me appreciate how different departments in an organisation communicate, work towards a common goal, and the challenges they face in this.  This understanding has helped me make my findings more applicable to the College. For instance, I found that the limits of one department, which had to work in paper copies, was transferred to all other departments who communicated with it, as they had to use paper copies as well to communicate with this department.  Understanding these requirements helped me develop some guidance which is tailored to the College’s needs rather than overly general.

It’s also been an absolute privilege to talk to so many interesting and intelligent people.  Everyone has been happy to share their own experiences and ideas, and I’ve gotten a much better idea of what lots of departments do (like HR, who’s inner working were a mystery to me before), what it’s like to work there, and the skills they value most.  What I want to do in the future is still a large and rather intimidating mystery, but this knowledge will guide me in deciding what I might find fulfilling (my plan is to come out of University with a five-year career plan).

Sam Parr 2

Finally, I also think that my experiences have made me a much better problem solver generally.  How I approach problems has changed a lot over the past two years.  My home degree is English with Creative Writing, and at the end of my second year I generally approached problems in a general way, analysing problems in depth and coming up with initial ideas, but not coming up with clear and sequential plans to put them in practice (in other words I was more a thinker than a doer). Taking a year out to study Computer Science made me a lot better at thinking logically on a step-by-step basis.  However my lack of experience in a real organisation meant I didn’t think about the real-world application of my planned solutions. Working in the College has really helped me bolster this, and I believe I have a much better idea of how my ideas will work in the real world, which helps inform my overall approach to solving something.

Altogether I’m coming out of the other end of the internship feeling far more capable and confident than before.  Instead of viewing the future as a looming worry in the distance, I now see it as a challenging but exciting problem to be tackled.  I’m really looking forward to applying everything I’ve learnt to my degree and future jobs, and would encourage anyone (including you, you handsome specimen) to take the opportunity to do something like BUIP, which engages and challenges you in ways you have not experienced before.

Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme: Postgraduate Induction Process Intern

Ten weeks ago I began my job as a Postgraduate Induction Process Intern for the college of Life and Environmental Sciences. It was a very nerve-wracking and daunting experience and the task seemed like a massive challenge and I had no idea how I was going to be able to get it done. 10 weeks on I have completed my proposal and have learnt so much.

One of the most obvious changes is in my confidence levels, when I initially started having meetings with any member of staff I became a bundle of nerves who became preoccupied about thinking of all possibly ways I could mess up the meeting. After attending approximately 30 meetings in 10 weeks they no longer faze me. This will be so useful for my future career as almost any job will involve interactions with peers and colleagues.

Another learning curve for me was being in control of my own schedule and deadlines. When I initially started I was given a few loose deadlines and some meetings were organising but the rest was down to me. Since the initial meetings I have organised further meetings and have made my own deadlines to ensure my work was completed by the end of my internship. I also learned the importance of keeping these plans flexible as throughout the internship I was asked to complete other tasks that weren’t expected to occur or jobs we thought would take a long time were actually much quicker.Rebecca Venn group painting

One great experience I was lucky to have the chance to participate in was the colleges away day where we went to the Vale and participated in team building activities. One of the tasks was for multiple groups to create a Picasso painting by each group doing an individual bit that when put together created the whole painting. This was made more difficult as only one member of the group could look at the image of the piece of the painting the group was trying to recreate. The member who could see the image was only allowed to see it for three lots of 2 minutes and then could only use words to describe what needed to be painted. This was a great task as it showed the importance of communication between groups as the group member who had seen the image needed to explain using clear and careful descriptions for the picture to be recreated accurately. It also showed that although you were only working in a small group, unless all the groups completed the task successfully the whole picture wouldn’t work, which is like a workforce.

Rebecca Venn Whole Picture

I feel very privileged to have been offered this opportunity by the University, it has taught me so much and will help out in my future career without a doubt. I would recommend anyone considering an internship with the university to apply as it has taught me that I am capable of tasks that I never thought I would be.