What it's like being an intern during a pandemic
Ray took part in our Change 100 graduate internship scheme during Summer 2020. They tell us what it is like to be a disabled person navigating the transition from university, to interning and to the job market all during a global pandemic.
My internship showed me that I am capable, and, to my surprise, I thrive in the workplace. It gave me the confidence to go into my final year at university with a better understanding of how I work.
It has been widely noted that being a student during the pandemic has been difficult. A lack of information from universities and government, being disconnected from friends, and facing heavy workloads has left students struggling. Before the pandemic started, I struggled deeply with my Cambridge workload, my long-term mental health conditions and the stress of finding internships.
When the pandemic began
At first, the pandemic was a relief. My university cut the workload and exams. I was able to take time to focus on improving my mental health and building coping strategies. Most importantly, I was given an internship through Change 100.
After the novelty of lockdown wore off, the stresses of university and my mental health came back, but this time, in the context of the pandemic. I had far less distractions than I did during university. My summer would have been incredibly empty and isolated had it not been for Change 100.
Getting into work with Change 100
I cannot adequately express how Change 100 has changed my life. I was incredibly lost while doing university studies. I was fearful that my future employers would not understand the changes I would require due to my mental health conditions. But Change 100’s monthly personal development sessions helped build my confidence around having a disability in the workplace.
The support of another Change 100 intern at the same organisation was such a privilege. I had someone who could relate to my experiences and laugh with me about silly things. It was lovely.
The benefits of homeworking
While it would have been nice to have physically gone to my place of work at least once over last summer, I actually found homeworking really beneficial. I learnt more about how I best work. For example, that I require a mixture of homeworking and office-working in my future jobs.
I was also able to converse with colleagues across the country and learn about different jobs within the charity sector. I took on tasks for, and built relationships with, people that, had we all been working in the office, I would have never met.
Some days were certainly difficult. My condition and the isolation from the pandemic would hit harder, and I would find it more difficult to focus on my internship. But I found my work gave me a much-needed distraction, and my line manager was incredibly supportive and helped me work through those days.
Thriving in the workplace
Without Change 100, I would have gone into the labour market not knowing about the adjustments I need and how to access them. I would have burnt myself out quickly and believed that it was because I was not good enough at the job.
But my internship showed me that I am capable, and, to my surprise, I thrive in the workplace. It gave me the confidence to go into my final year at university with a better understanding of how I work. I also know how to use the changes to daily life from the pandemic to best suit my needs.
Podcast: how has the pandemic impacted disabled students?
In our latest podcast episode, we speak to disabled student Cassie and network director of Disabled Students UK Amelia about their experiences over the last twelve months.