One of the most unique components of my semester in Scotland was my academic internship. On most study abroads, you are just taking classes at a foreign university, but with EPA, you have the chance to partake in an internship while also taking a few classes. I interned with Law At Work (LAW), a company that offers employment law, human resources, and health and safety services. My supervisor was one of the HR Consultants.
Last summer I enjoyed my first real internship in IT. My experience led me to adding an additional major (Communications), both of which sparked my interest in Human Resources. So, LAW was my first internship in the HR field.
It wasn’t just that my EPA internship confirmed my interest in HR but it allowed me the chance to be outside of my “university bubble” that isn’t always an accurate portrayal of the “real world” like many universities.
There were three main things that my academic internship taught me:
First, time management being different from that of college was a big one. Since I was working around 20 hours a week in addition to taking classes, my schedule was super busy. It taught me to take advantage of the small pockets of unstructured time I had here and there to be productive and complete my school work, which also allowed weekend time to travel around Europe. At my home university, I am accustomed to having larger periods of time even with extracurriculars to complete assignments, so I learned to take full advantage of these shorter periods and manage my work effectively although having to do it in parts. When I leave college, I will need to juggle a lot of responsibilities and interests in addition to my career. My semester abroad definitely gave me a taste of what it may be like to balance everything.
Second (which ties in with the first), it can be difficult having major motivation when returning to your flat after working 9-5. However, post-grad several people go to school while working which requires a balance much like I learned this semester. You also must make time to exercise, attend meetings for other things, and may have a family years down that road, all requiring proper attention after your workday. I learned that to combat this lethargy requires getting enough sleep in order to be productive the whole day (and lots of water) and just really disciplining yourself (making a schedule or checklist is helpful) in order to get it all done.
Third, it is the people who can make or break your internship experience. I was lucky enough to have joined a great team that made me feel so welcomed during my short time in Edinburgh and treated me like an actual employee by providing me with work that I felt was truly valuable to the company and challenging for me. For future career searching, I learned that you cannot join an organization just because of the pay (though an added bonus) but you need to make sure attitudes and beliefs align with your own. This semester, the employees made it so much more enjoyable to come to work. It did take me longer to adjust to a non-American work culture. At my internship, at least, the people seem to be more comfortable just being themselves, which was refreshing. However, they are still very hard-working. It is likely you will encounter much diversity in any workplace so it made me more appreciative of this aspect. It was definitely easier though since Scots speak English!
This experience was so worth it because it gave me another way to gauge my future career interest while also giving me insight into life after college. Had I just gone into this summer never having an internship in HR, I would have less clarity (and probably more stress!), but now I will have two HR internships after summer is over. I am fortunate that my summer internship will combine both IT and HR. I can also compare the two types of organizations, one very small and the other very large, as well as other differences, to see which environment I prefer.
I now have more confidence in myself going into my senior year and preparing to enter the real world which would not have been possible without my EPA internship experience.
Anna Flynn, Furman University Class of 2018 (Edinburgh, spring 2017)