The first day of your internship

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 dealt with the topic of relocating out of London and knowing what to prepare before placement begun. In this second post, Wimpy guides us through the trials and tribulations of his first week on placement.

“It’s your first day woo! I mentioned about all these random questions that popped into my head, well let me explain. See when I came to my first day of the internship, I was all dressed up with a shirt, tie and uncomfortable trousers, waiting for my boss to arrive. No one really knew what I had to do on my first day, I felt so out of place probably because I was nervous as heck. But anyway I was soon placed into the coast & estuaries department and man everyone who works here are so friendly, so this made me feel at ease.

Anyway, I was led into my little office space and was introduced to the people around me, which was probably why I started thinking about the dress code. I mean some people are wearing rather casual clothing, is it only certain people who are allowed? I later asked my boss and the receptionist just to be sure about this and they both replied with ‘it’s pretty casual here’, which means I can wear casual clothes, I was rather happy. After meeting my boss/supervisor and being given work to do, I wasted no time to do it. It’s kind of funny but I constantly kept repeating and checking over my work, since it was my first day and I was really scared of doing things wrong. Pretty soon I had to go into an induction meeting, which covered everything from where you can go for lunch to IT policy. Talking of lunch, I forgot to mention that my internship is in the middle of the countryside and the nearest town is about a 15 mins walk, so it’s pretty important for me to know where I can get lunch at the nearest place. After the induction I was introduced to everyone and the first day is all about the barrage of new names and new faces with a constant battle of trying to remember them (luckily they have name tags on their desk!).

After a few days I was told to start e-mailing some people about the work I was doing, kind of scary to be honest because you don’t know if you should go casual hello or more of a formal approach. It’s all very confusing. Also, when it comes to lunch everyone tends to go in a group. I ended up spending lunch times by myself because I would miss most of the lunch calls and well it’s really scary to just try and go into a group of people you don’t know. So instead I read and draw, which is good and I’ve been able to explore the place and watch people play volleyball woo!

Over the next few days my supervisor was away on work related courses so I was left with a lot of work to do. But beforehand I was introduced to Alan who was a very friendly and funny man that I could ask for help for my work. So the first week flew by and I was flying through the work they gave me and before I knew it, it was the weekend. Finally being given so much freedom living away from home, I planned to go to Download festival and came back on Sunday. It was an amazing time! I guess if you have weekends off make the most of it especially if you live somewhere you have never been before. Anyway I knew my supervisor would be away and I would have to do independent work which I don’t mind at all. So I just started reading all the things they gave me and revise over some stuff that was important. However, I still ended up getting stuck on the first day back! I knew in my head I had to ask Alan for help so I gathered up the courage to walk up to his desk and ask for help – and he was really keen to hep me. Again and again the tests we were doing were still outputting unstable results and even Alan couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then my other supervisor Belen came back and she tried to help me but to no success and at this point it was agreed upon by all of us to wait until Marion comes back.

Final thoughts – I think it’s always scary and hard to know what you are doing but then no one expects you to know what you are doing especially not for a while. I think that in any situation it’s always good to ask people around you for help. I mean even if you are not going anywhere with the work, at least you have tried and you have people around you to vouch for you. Oh yeah never waste your weekend whilst on internships! Because after that hard second week, I went back to London to go to a gaming event and found out later on, another person from SEPnet will be starting on the Monday. Maybe I can make a friend? Who knows…”

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