Experiences, Platform

Before The Internship: What I’m expecting

ERASMUS has achieved the impossible. With its repetitive questioning method and ability to irritate with the simplest inquiry, it has finally managed to make the prospect of free money boring.

The fact that is has taken me two weeks to do half an hours form-filling bears witness to this. Of course it will be done. In fact, it has to be, otherwise my move to Brussels and subsequent internship with Oxfam would be impossible. Anyway, there are only so many ways the kind bureaucrats at ERASMUS can ask me “What tasks will you be doing?”

With the move just under a month away, it is remarkable how little thought I have given it. ERASMUS and money lingers over my shoulder as does the annoyingly unresponsive house market in Brussels, but concerns about the job seem miles away. As a media and communications intern my job will be as diverse as “drafting media products such as press releases” to “helping organise advocacy events”; sure, it’s not the first image one imagines when they think development, but it is still a job with one of the world’s most recognisable and respected development brands.

I have the benefit of hindsight with the internship, albeit one based on the experiences of someone else. With the placement previously taken by a fellow University of Bath student, she was able to inform me on what to expect. She told me that, given the offer, she would happily do it again, a reassurance which pushed me to take the unpaid internship.

It was money which scared me about the job. With ‘pocket-money’ of €150 a month and a further €200 for my train from London, the job – which requires 38 hours a week – will pay €1700 for ten months work. God bless ERASMUS therefore who, despite making it incredibly tedious, pay me €3400. On top of that, my British Student Finance Maintenance Loan is helping with a further £4300. That brings me to the grand total of, roughly, €10,100 for the year. It is enough. Not to live glamorously, but enough to survive in one of Europe’s more expensive cities.

So with my money worries pushed to the side-lines a bit, what about the job? I’m a natural pessimist. Having come from three years of doing the very little students do, entering a job is relatively daunting. In fact, it isn’t even a job: it’s an internship. As much as I want to be like CJ from the West Wing, delivering important company announcements from a podium, I will be in front of it. That’s if Oxfam even has a podium to speak from in Europe. In my head, my role could be as irrelevant as fetching coffee for my boss.

The fear of being useless will be there right up until the day I start and, with little doubt, for about a month after that.

I have little experience in the tasks assigned to me, and where I do, it feels like it’s not nearly enough. Stories from others already working on placements resigning to play Angry Birds on their phone all day worries me; if they aren’t paying me very much, does it matter if I’m not working as much? Will they give me any responsibility at all?

Ultimately though, with my knowledge of Oxfam and conversations with the other intern, I look forward to working with two things I have enjoyed immensely over the past few years. Firstly, having worked with my campus paper, I am interested to see how those wanting to manipulate print media go about it.

Secondly, I could argue that I have fought on the ‘front lines’ of development, teaching English to impoverished Ecuadorian children for six months during my gap year. I am intrigued to find out if that is the front line at all or whether, as I am being increasingly led to believe, it is the law-makers, including the European Union, who fight on the ‘front line’.

Being this pessimist means that I always have a lot to worry about, so all I can do for the next month is hope for the best, find a house, and finish these bloody forms!


18 thoughts on “Before The Internship: What I’m expecting

  1. Occasionally you become useless and when you do it’s always good advice to look busy anyway (I tend to read stuff online, typing also helps, even if it’s just emails to someone).
    Never look bored. Tidy up if you have to. I found that colleagues will always be happy if you offer to sort out old files, cabinets, etc.


      • Maia says:

        Sure, but when you get told that there isn’t anything to do at the moment (and sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do), in a very small office that just doesn’t leave you with many options other than tidying up and reading news to keep yourself updated, basically not looking bored. Occasionally I even end up being in the office by myself the whole day.

        Sometimes during downtimes I can sign up for and attend interesting events and write up minutes so that my colleagues are informed about events they couldn’t attend and this also gives me the chance to meet interesting people and come up with work I could do at the office, but that depends on where you work and what is expected of you.


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