QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) which organises a summer placements scheme for 2nd and 3rd year Physics students.
This year, six QMUL Physics students have been successful in securing a SEPnet placement and are on their placements as we write. Wimpy Yahya, a QMUL BSc Physics student, will be writing a series of blog posts about his experiences and learning curves whilst on his placement at an engineering & hydraulics company based in the Oxford town of Wallingford. His first blog post is about what a student might need to take into consideration before starting their placement.
“You got the internship! Now what? This is the exact question I asked myself when I received the good news, after all the cheering and celebrating I was left asking myself ‘what do I actually know about internships?’… turns out nothing.
In this modern time you would think that having parents hearing you got a job in the summer is a good thing, but not for some…I guess my first hurdle was actually convincing my parents to be okay with me moving out. For some, this is one of the greatest hurdles (mostly due to religion, gender, trust issues etc). It’s always hard to confront my parents especially when I’m not used to it, but after some convincing and begging they reluctantly agreed. The advice I can give is that persistence pays off. If you keep highlighting all the good things and reassure them about their worries, how can they say no? I mean, you’re going to have to do it at some point.
After getting my parents’ approval I didn’t really think much else about the internship as I had exams, which was a big mistake on my part. Because when the time actually came to confirming the internship, I was suddenly in a panic – the internship was outside of London but I didn’t have any accommodation sorted. I asked the company I was due to work for if they supply accommodation (which is always a good idea) and unfortunately they did not, but they did point me in the direction of a possible accommodation source. Thinking that there would places available I left this at the last minute, which was an even worse decision on my part. As it turns out there were no places left for the dates I needed. So I had to frantically search everywhere I could but to no avail, until a stroke of luck when a space became available at the initial accommodation provider. Even though it was expensive I agreed anyway since it was my best option at that point.
Familiarise yourself with the area…
So, accommodation, confirmation of the internship and the start date all done. I guess at this stage it’s more about how you prepare yourself. I decided that it would be a good idea to move-in two days before the internship started. I did this so that I could use the days to settle in and research what’s available near where I live. From supermarkets to gym or places of interest it’s always good to look around to see what’s happening. I was really glad I did that; I know you can just search through the internet to find main shops and supermarkets but the best deals usually are found in the local shops. Since my workplace was a 30 minute bus ride from where I was staying I decided to take a visit there too, mainly so that I can get used to the bus ride, knowing how long the bus ride takes and where the bus stops are including the bus timetables (important when you’re outside of London and buses can be infrequent). It is also worth noting to have a list of what you need and buy when you get to your accommodation.
What to ask the employer before you start…
It’s always kinda funny to think that not many people respond to the ‘if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask’ and when it is too late people always say to themselves ‘should have asked this, that etc.’, because that exact thing happened to me. I remember coming in on the first day and I honestly did not have a clue about what would happen. Even worse, I got confused with what time I was meant to start. There I was walking in, I picked up my temporary ID card and was told that I was an hour earlier than expected, so after getting a tour and sitting at my desk, I was given material to start reading to kill some time until my supervisor comes in. At this point I should say that when walking past the whole workplace I noticed that not everyone was wearing formal clothing, which got me thinking, is there a dress code for this work place? A sudden rush of questions came into my mind: what are the work hours?, is there a canteen here?, did I need to bring anything? Thankfully all was clarified later on in the induction process the company gave me. In reality these are the kind of questions you need to be asking before an internship so you are prepared and know what to expect.
So the moral of my story? Think about accommodation sooner rather than later and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”
In the next blog post, we’ll be finding out about what the first two weeks were like for Wimpy.