Discovering EFI from Behind my Laptop

In this article

This summer the usual office job was not an option. One of our summer interns, Anne van der Poel, reflects on her unusual internship experience – delivering on goals from a distance.

Image courtesy of Anne van der Poel

This summer the usual office job was not an option. One of our summer interns, Anne van der Poel, reflects on her unusual internship experience and on delivering on her goals from a distance.

My name is Anne van der Poel, and I am going into my fourth year of an (MA Hons) English Literature degree here at the University of Edinburgh. This summer I spent three months doing an internship with the Adoption team in the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s project management office (PMO).

What drew me to this internship was primarily EFI itself, rather than the job description. Having walked past the developing building on Lauriston Place 20 times a week for the last three years, my curiosity as to what EFI really was had peaked. When the opportunity to find out arose, I was extremely keen for the chance.

The interdisciplinary nature of my interests, as well as my keenness to learn and grow, fit well with EFI’s ethos of research, teaching, and development. This summer I wanted to learn, grow and be as challenged and productive as possible. My work with EFI has allowed for this.

An unusual internship

Back in February when I was applying for the internship, I could never have imagined it turning out the way it did; working remotely for months in the midst of a global pandemic. This presented some challenges: finding the physical space to work, motivating myself, and staying focused were certainly tough to begin with. An internship from my own living room left me without the ‘normal’ opportunities for making connections, networking, sitting in on meetings, and seeing the various projects going on around an office. Regardless, the team did a fantastic job at moving things online as much as possible, making me feel included and supported. From being assigned a ‘buddy’ and having informal 1:1s, to organised tea breaks and Zoom happy hours, I still got the opportunity to get to know my colleagues.

Working from home also comes with benefits. It takes me 5 minutes to get ready in the mornings, I never have to prep or buy lunch, and my schedule is as flexible as I am. Other than making it to meetings, I can choose whether I start working at 6 in the morning, or 1 in the afternoon.

By the end of my 12 weeks, I had only met two of my colleagues face-to-face, from a distance of course. If you were to quiz me on how tall a member of my team is, what type of shoes they wear, or what their favourite lunch consists of I would draw a blank. Regardless, I feel connected with and invested in my colleagues and the job I have been doing. This internship gave me structure and purpose in a time of confusion, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

What I did

Over three months I met so many people, attended dozens of events, completed a wide variety of tasks, and worked on a plethora of projects. What I wanted from my internship was to see the tangible outcomes of my work and contributions, and this has certainly been possible. Throughout the summer I have been a part of various projects and events, most notably the Smart Places series, the Tourism Impact Model by Tourism 4.0, the Covid World Game for Scotland, and Traveltech for Scotland. These various projects have allowed me to collaborate with people within EFI, as well as the Edinburgh Living Lab, the Data Driven Innovation initiative, International Futures Forum, and others all over the world.

Working on these projects has helped me develop my communication and media skills. Working with data and analysis I have had the opportunity to apply creative solutions to complex issues. These new experiences have opened my eyes to so many possible careers and paths I could go into in the future. My favourite aspect of my internship was interacting with a variety of people from various backgrounds, disciplines, and jobs. Every day of the last few months has brought different tasks, challenges, and experiences and I have loved every minute.

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