Doing an internship during your minor
|Date:||14 April 2022|
Students of the Global Responsibility & Leadership programme have the unique opportunity to spend a year abroad, do an internship, a pre-master or study at another dutch university. During this so-called 'minor' space, they broaden their horizon through exploring different cultures or deepening your knowledge and skills. Eight students reflect on their experiences. This week Max and Koen reflect on their experiences as an intern during their minor.
Max did an internship at SPARK
My initial plan for my minor was to go on exchange to Coimbra, Portugal. However, the uncertainty around this due to Covid, as well as the possibility to continue working on certainty projects I had just started working on, made me reconsider this. Over the past year I had been working with SPARK the Movement, the educational branch of the Vereniging Ciruculair Friesland (VCF) on the application to get awarded the title Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCE ESD). Additionally, via SPARK I got involved in the Education for Climate (E4C) Community, a project by the European Commission on setting up a platform to connect students, teachers and educational steakholders working on climate change education all across Europe. As I enjoyed working on both of these projects, I decided to ask the project leader of SPARK, Heleentje Swart, whether it would be possible to do an internship with them, which would allow me to continue and intensify working on these projects.
Heleentje was more than happy to help, which is why I started on the 1st of September officially as an intern at SPARK the Movement. We agreed that my main task would be the organization of the European RCE Meeting, a 2-day networking conference for all European RCE’s, which we had been asked to host in February 2022. Next to this I would be working on developing the RCE’s governance structure further and be SPARK’s contact person for the E4C project. This was a great set-up as it gave me quite some room to work independently, combine my interests in Education for Sustainable Development with those in governance and (European) policy making, as well as let me experience a whole new line of work, event planning. However, right from the start I was also involved in other activities of SPARK, when they fitted my schedule.
As I was already familiar with the internship organisation, I found my place there quite quickly. Usually, I would meet Heleentje once or twice a week, but was mainly working independently. This consisted of meeting key stakeholders for the conference, drafting a programme and improving this based on feedback from the stakeholders and Heleentje. Next to that I was in regular contact with the E4C community. The work on the E4C project mainly consisted of attending brainstorm sessions on several aspects of the platform they were developing. However, they also asked me to take part in a panel discussion about the project during the pre-COP26 in Milan at the end of September. Following this, I was asked to moderate a side-event organized by the European Union during COP26 in Glasgow. While this was of course an amazing opportunity, it was a quite a large unforeseen added workload, but my internship organisation was very supportive of this. Especially as we were well on-track with the planning of the conference.
However, after COP26 ended and the 2-day programme for the conference was largely finished, it proved to be less of smooth sailing then expected. Towards the end of November, it became clear that the conference could not be held in- person as was planned. Due to this we had to start largely from scratch planning a fully online conference, with only limited time left. Because of this Heleentje also got a lot more involved in the planning of the conference. In the end we had to slim down the conference to one full day, with just one 2- hour session on day two. Regardless, in the end we managed to hold a great event with over a 100 participants from all over Europe, which was very well received by both our regional, as well as the RCE network.
I can look back on a successful internship, that did not always went smooth, but also provided me with great opportunities and experiences. While I’m quite certain I won’t sign up for anything event planning related sometime soon, this internship taught me a lot and gave me extremely valuable insights into working outside of an academic setting.
Koen did his internship at Rotterdam The Hague Airport
After two years of studying at University College Fryslân, and my exchange semester to New Zealand having been canceled, I spent the first semester of my third year broadening my horizon by stepping outside of university and into the professional world. I really liked the idea of getting some practical experience during my studies and to get to know what the 'real world' looks like. Therefore, I tried finding internships in the field of sustainability, sustainable energy transition, and mobility. Eventually, this led me to an internship at Rotterdam The Hague Airport. And so, I exchanged Leeuwarden for Rotterdam!
During my studies at UCF, I completed the Responsible Planet Major and I am doing a sidetrack in Politics from the Responsible Governance major. This means I focus mostly on topics such as climate change and the sustainable energy transition, as well as political science. Doing an internship at an airport might not seem the most logical decision to take for someone studying sustainability – due to the negative sustainability reputation of the aviation industry in societal discourse – but I decided to take on the challenge and learn about how the aviation industry views sustainability and what is already being done, now and in the coming years. During my internship I gained many interesting insights into the aviation industry and I got to learn how an airport functions, both in relation to its own operations and with its stakeholders and governments from multiple levels. I was given the opportunity to actively work at the sustainability department and help make the airport more sustainable by working on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and making resource flows more circular and sustainable. This allowed me to work with colleagues from many different departments within the airport as well as with external partners, which was very insightful!
Being able to do an internship after two years of studying was a really refreshing experience. It has shown me that learning does not only mean following lectures and writing papers - instead, digging deeper into something more practical by doing an internship allows you to learn about things you would not have been able to learn in university. The knowledge and perspectives I have gained throughout the first two years at UCF have provided me with a solid basis on sustainability, so being able to apply that to an industry as unfamiliar to me as the aviation industry was an exciting and interesting challenge! It was great to actually be able to make a meaningful sustainability contribution in the professional field after spending two years in academics. This internship has been a useful guide in setting out my plans after finishing my bachelor in Global Responsibility & Leadership and I am excited to see what the post-COVID future has in store for me!