Few things strike terror into the heart of a student as much as the question, ‘So have you got a summer internship yet?’ If not, you are often found scrambling to justify why exactly you need to see that distant relative for three months or how your planned holiday to Peru will really benefit your professional development. It is difficult enough finding an internship if you want a ‘conventional’ job but it is harder still if a less traditional career path appeals. Want to work for a charity? An NGO? A think tank or international organisation? Finding internships for the above is often an ordeal in itself, contingent on contacts or desperate prayers that google will churn out a useful opportunity. Moreover, they are virtually all unpaid. Not only are you chasing a less lucrative career but you will also have to bankrupt yourself in the process.
These were the quandaries I was facing last summer as I accepted an internship with a peacebuilding NGO in Sri Lanka. Fortunately, my worries were soon eased with a little help from the Careers Centre. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Careers Centre does more than send the occasional email reminding you that one day you will actually have to get a job. Indeed, it has a valuable source of funding for students’ summer internships: The Summer Internship for Change Award.
Rebranded from the Not For Profit Internship Award, this funding is aimed at students undertaking unpaid internships that make a positive “change” either to you, a cause or an organisation. The internship must be with a not-for-profit organisation such as a charity, NGO or social enterprise. Students can receive up to £1000 to go towards travel, accommodation and food, ensuring that financial constraints should not hold anyone back from gaining professional development and transferable skills for their dream career. Say goodbye to shameless nepotism and praying to the gods of google! A plethora of opportunities, and funding to get them, is quite literally at your fingertips.
Last year’s awards went to a wide variety of internships spanning numerous sectors. Here are just a few examples of the type of work that the award funds:
Poppy Russell (MA English) – Refugee Search and Rescue Volunteer, Lesbos
The most significant activities we worked on were search and rescue projects and logistical management of an emergency camp set up in the wake of a riot. These two jobs required very different skills: the former is much more managing yourself in a stressful situation so you can work to benefit others, whilst refugee camp logistics require communication and management of large numbers of people, across language and cultural barriers, so I was definitely challenged at every turn!.
Isabel Stehli (MA Geography) – Project Intern, EduCARE, India
EduCARE India runs grassroots-level sustainable development projects in Naddi, a village located outside of Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh, India. My specific project was the initial phases of starting up a “for women, by women” driving and taxi association with the goal to create social and economic empowerment for women in the community through access to safe transportation options.
Porter Clements (MA Social Anthropology) – Intern, BIOM Ecological Movement, Kyrgyzstan
While we were working there, BIOM was mainly focused on a contract they had received from the Kyrgyz government concerning school systems. BIOM was trying to modify the system in order to create an environment in which children would be prepared for a rapidly Westernising society. My co-intern and I were asked to give a presentation about schools in the West, and give suggestions about how Kyrgyz schools might be able to change in order to provide students with a learning environment relevant to their needs.
If you want to find out more about the Summer Internship for Change Award, past recipients and the Careers Centre is holding an open day on Tuesday 12th of March at 5.00 pm in the Careers Centre. You will be able to find out the selection criteria, get tips on how to write a winning application and have the opportunity to talk with previous recipients of the award and get ideas of the type of internships you can do. The start of a career that makes real change in the world may be closer than you think.