‘My internship has helped me develop skills for my degree and my career’

This summer, Christine O’Shea took part in the University of Bristol’s Widening Participation Summer Internship Scheme. This is a paid internship which matches students with a researcher or research project to get hands-on research work experience for six weeks during the summer holidays.

Christine, who is a third year BSc Social Policy and Politics student, worked on the Active-6 study in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, within the School for Policy Studies. Active-6 is a crucial research project exploring the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions on the physical activity of Year 6 children and their parents/carers.

Here, Christine shares her experiences of, and learnings from, her internship.

What new skills did you learn on your placement?

I would describe the internship as very hands-on. I felt very much involved in data collection, including many trips to the participating schools and undertaking survey data entry. My involvement in data collection gave me the opportunity to learn how to build a professional relationship with external stakeholders and my colleagues’ help with data entry has made me less apprehensive about learning new software. Also, this internship has broadened my understanding and comfort with using essential office software like Excel. The warm reception I received from my colleagues from the very start of my internship also enabled me to grow my confidence in asking questions and voicing my ideas in meetings.

Were you able to apply your learning from your degree in your placement?

During my time on the project, I completed independent work including desk-based research on the socio-demographic contexts of the study’s schools which allowed me to spot trends which I could apply to interpret the projects data. The internship enabled me to actively apply the skills I have learned from my degree to the real world, including having the chance to listen to and code the qualitative data. As a result, I feel prepared to use qualitative research methods in my dissertation.

What were the most surprising things you learned?

Before the internship, I was quite apprehensive about working in an office as I thought the days would become quite repetitive. However, I never felt bored as there was always something popping up to do – which also taught me that research doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned! As a result, the internship has taught me lessons about how I should approach my dissertation, including planning for potential issues. The internship also taught me how to maintain good communication with participants and how to conduct research ethically.

Has the placement helped you make decisions about your career?

Going forward, I would like to pursue a career in public health and thanks to the help of my colleagues I am aware of how to get started. Speaking with my colleagues has allowed me to understand that no-one’s career path is linear, and they have broadened my awareness of the many job roles there are that are involved in making changes in public health.


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