Internships and Volunteering

Internships and Volunteering

Many of our students undertake internships or volunteering to gain valuable experience in different work sectors and environments. Opportunities include the Aberdeen Internship and Aberdeen InternPlus, which students can apply for during the second or third year (or fourth year of a five year course) of their undergraduate degree.

Click on the names below to read more about some of our students’ internships during their degrees at the University of Aberdeen.

Allie Glew (Art History)

For ten weeks in the summer of 2022 I had the opportunity to intern with the University of Aberdeen's Events Team, helping them in the organisation and running of their UNI-Versal mini festival project. The UNI-Versal project was well underway by the time I joined, which was challenging; it meant that I had to hit the ground running in learning what needed to be done, how to do it and to get it done in an organised and efficient manner. 

Though I worked on both Hame and the initial aspects of the Music Festival, I spent most of my time programming the History and Heritage festival. So, what exactly goes into programming a mini festival? 

The first stages are about pulling together ideas for events. The History and Heritage festival is being organised in collaboration with the University's Museums and Special Collections team. We started with Microsoft Teams meetings every two weeks to discuss ideas, budgets and timings. An excel document was set up in the Teams shared files which was populated with ideas for events, potential venues and speakers/performers, and possible budget costs. One of my first jobs was to set up a colour code to use in this document that allowed us to narrow down which events were confirmed and going ahead, which events were still to be confirmed, and which events we decided to dismiss. 

From this document, I started putting together the draft programme. This document lists all of the events by date and time, the location/venue, the price and whether booking would be required, and finally, a brief description of each event. I was required to keep in contact with various speakers and members of the Museums and Special Collections team to confirm details, source images for the programme and promotion, and make sure they were all happy with the timings. This document, along with the images, was sent to the graphic design team, who put together the final pdf programme, which would be used for promotion. 

At the same time, I put together a similar document, listing the events, dates and times, locations and venue capacity, which would be used for setting up the ticket booking system Ticketsource (another one of my tasks). 

Once the Graphic Design team had completed a first draft of the programme, they sent it back to us to double-check that all of the details were correct. This part of the process, along with setting up the events on TicketSource, required a lot of attention to detail - it's an extensive document. There is always something that gets missed or mixed up, so we went through about thirteen versions before we could finalise it! And that could be for something as simple as removing a letter from a word (do not ask the Graphic Design team about the spelling of the Cruickshank Botanic Garden!). 

We launched the festival online in the first week of August (and the penultimate week of my internship). It was very satisfying to see all those weeks' worth of work come together to be put online for everyone to see. 

Rhona Grant (History)

For ten weeks in the summer of 2023, I was given the opportunity to work as a marketing and communications intern within the Careers and Employability Service. The purpose of my internship was to audit the current marketing activities of the Careers and Employability Service, to establish new materials and templates, and to make recommendations as to how the service can better communicate, promote its activities, and support students. This was actualised by researching and analysing the engagement data from the Careers and Employability Service including: emails, appointments, pathways, events, and social media. From this data I was able to create ‘pressure point’ calendars that depict when students are interacting most with the Service. I also made ‘heatmaps’ of when the best time and day to send out communications to students is based on their usage of CareerConnect. I did internal and external market research including interviewing the current advisers, facilitating focus groups with other interns, speaking with differing university departments, and speaking with people from other university Careers Services. I also helped to create a ‘themes calendar’ of which all marketing materials in the next year for the Careers and Employability Service will be in line with. I created social media content including a proposal for the Careers and Employability Service to have an Instagram, and lastly, I created an intern report of all my findings and suggestions for the future.

So how has this internship impacted me and furthered my career goals?

Having studied History and now completing an Accelerated LLB, I was aware that this internship was a slight departure from my career aspirations. Thus, my hope for this internship was that I would gain transferable skills that I will be able to take with me and apply in future opportunities, which I feel confident is the case. Even softer skills I’ve gained like understanding office etiquette and expanding on skills I felt I already had to an extent, such as commercial awareness, I know I will be able to take forward with me. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to use my brain in different ways and to take on the challenge of something that didn’t necessarily feel within my wheelhouse. What I realised whilst doing this internship is that I really enjoy learning beyond the classroom, I enjoy a challenge and I enjoy being required to think about things differently. Realising this more has had a positive impact on me and has really made me think more about how I want my future career to encourage this. One of the other things I really enjoyed and that has been such a great asset to my internship experience was getting to know the other interns across the University.

Overall, I think this internship has been impactful as it has provided the opportunity for me and other students to gain practical skills that will benefit us in our future professions. I think that the Aberdeen Internship Programme is very beneficial to students and university departments alike, and I think the programme encourages students by allowing them to gain experience, skills and confidence that will benefit us as we plan our futures.

Finja Hennicken (English-Philosophy)

For 2022, I decided I wanted to get a summer internship. If you’re like me, the summer break feels way too long to be idle for all of it and I was looking to either get a job or get some work experience, ideally both in the form of a paid internship. As an international student I had the option to look for internships both in the UK and my home country, however, I didn’t like the prospect of having to organise temporary accommodation while also dealing with a new professional environment and not having any friends around. Thus, the Aberdeen Internship programme was a perfect fit for me as it meant I could stay in Aberdeen for the summer, and it is also one of the few paid internships around. The Aberdeen Internship programme is organised by the Careers and Employability Service and provides opportunities for 10-week paid internships across the University. 

The job advertisement of my project asked for someone ‘with a passion for storytelling’ which immediately caught my attention as I am an avid reader and writer, writing my own projects, as well as for the Journal of Matters Relating to Felines (or CatMag). The latter was actually what intrigued my interview panel the most, showing that you can and should include relevant hobbies in your CV. The application process was quite straight-forward. I had to send in a CV, a covering letter and references, got invited to an interview and two weeks later received and email that I had been offered the position. If you are nervous about the application process, don’t be! (But also, so was I.) There are great resources on the University’s website which among other things can help you with your interview preparation and with building an effective CV, covering letter, and LinkedIn profile. I had also participated in the University’s career mentoring scheme and my mentor has helped me immensely with becoming more confident and expressive in my applications. 

I got the email confirming my internship position at the airport while waiting for my flight home and after checking about a thousand times that my eyes weren’t deceiving me, broke out into a little happy dance. I kept on breaking out in little happy dances in my seat during the flight, and the rest of the day – probably to the disconcertment of the other passengers. I was too happy to care. However, after the initial bliss, the inescapable worrying set in. What exactly was I going to be doing? (Note to myself and others: save job descriptions!) What if I overslept on the first day? And what on earth is business casual? Turns out, I did not need to worry at all. On our first day, all the interns were given an induction by the Careers and Employability Service team who alleviated our doubts and fears and answered all our questions. My office, the Development Trust & Alumni Relations office, gave a similarly warm welcome which I tried repaying by bringing in muffins the next week. Luckily, I did not get hired due to my superior baking skills as the taste of my muffins belied the feelings I meant to convey – how excited I was to work for and with the team, how comfortable I felt in the office and how nice everyone had been from the start, offering to include me in all office related activities. (Note to self and others: Don’t add flour and milk to you baking mix without measuring!) Though different offices have different professional environments, you’ll be able to learn quickly how your workplace manages things. For example, my office used first names for everyone, and the business casual dress code ranged from the more business to the more casual side. 

In the first week of our internship, we were asked to work on a development plan in which we reflected on the skills we would be able to refine or gain during our internship. In order to complete it, I asked for my job description again and that’s why I am now able to tell you that my project was to organise, set up and populate a content bank. I created content, specifically donor impact stories and alumni blogs, but also videos and social media posts for the Development Trust & Alumni Relations channels and blogs. I was left to work on my projects independently with enough support so as to not feel overwhelmed by the new environment.  This kind of trust as well as the encouragements that we were the people chosen for these positions for a reason really gave me the confidence to fully immerse myself in the tasks I was given. I gained valuable experience in many different areas that I would not have been able to gain in the same capacity without this opportunity. 

Nicole Cogan Mclellan (Art History)

My name is Nicole and for 10 weeks in the summer of 2022, I was an intern with the University’s Museums and Special Collections. The aim of my internship was to improve the visitor experience of Digital & Information Services, with a focus on sustainability and accessibility. 

This internship seemed like it was made for me, as an Art History student going into my final year, my career ambitions heavily focus on the heritage sector. From a personal perspective, sustainability and accessibility are concepts that are close to my heart, and I was excited to see how the various elements of this internship would weave together. 

After our intern induction, I got to sit down with every member of the department and spend time learning what their specific role entails. This included such perks as getting a behind the scenes view of the Museums and Special Collections in all sorts of stores across campus, and in Marischal College. It was a really great opportunity to see the inner workings of this sector. 

My main focus throughout the internship was creating an action plan to aid the department in its attempt to secure a Green Tourism Award. The Green Tourism Award is an official recognition of your institution’s sustainability efforts. For me, this covered social media, training, and public outreach. While there is still a long way to go, I think we’ve definitely taken a step in the right direction. 

In line with my action plan for the Green Tourism Award, I created social media content relating to museums and sustainability. I assisted with promoting the Old Aberdeen Library in the Sir Duncan Rice Library as a sustainable and helpful resource for staff and students, as well as the local community in Old Aberdeen. I also assisted in curating accessible webpages for the University's Gallery and newly re-opened Zoology Museum, as well as helping out with exhibitions. 

I got to learn some new skills, which really helped me to engage with my internship. I got to create some content for social media which was a fun creative outlet. I made action plans, which I had never done before. They proved to be very useful for actively measuring what I was doing and what still needs to be worked on even after I leave. I also had the opportunity to attend workshops online with various organisations and connected with some interesting people in the sector. 

Before applying, I already knew that I had an interest in this sector but now I know that this is what I want to pursue when I finish my studies. The insight I gained from each person in my department was invaluable and provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow. 

The people that I worked with throughout this experience are what made it what it was. I was lucky to have not one, but two, line managers who supported me the whole way through. Every single person in the department was incredibly kind and willing to help me and chat to me about what they do. It was an amazing 10 weeks! 

Philip Nicol (History-International Relations)

In 2022-23 Philip took up an internship with Braemar Castle in Aberdeenshire, to work as a Community History Research Leader on their Raising the Standard Project. 

What was the aim of the project?

Braemar Castle is currently being restored and is due to open to the public again in 2024. Alongside the physical conservation works, the Raising the Standard project exists to transform the heritage of Braemar Castle and turn it into both an attractive tourist destination and a productive resource for Braemar and the surrounding region.

What was your role?

My role was to plan and conduct an oral history project and see this process through from start to finish over the course of five months.

What did this involve?

Conducting interviews with members of the community to gather stories of the castle’s heritage and its significance to the local community. I developed interview questions and other materials, as well as connecting with members of the community in preparation for interviewing.

I gained a wealth of experience including project delivery, safeguarding, data protection and confidentiality standards in community research. I was required to transcribe interview data and edit recordings for archiving and use in sound instillations. Throughout my internship I was contributing to the wider archival material of Braemar.

What was the highlight of your experience?

Getting the opportunity to speak with, and interview, a wide range of people who have lived fascinating lives. Once the new centre has opened, my work will form part of the exhibition, and I look forward to visiting and hearing the stories I collected.

What advice would you give to other students considering an internship or looking to volunteer in this area?

Go for it! It is a lot of hard work but hugely satisfying to see your completed work and know you have contributed to wider project which will have a significant impact on the community and beyond.

What skills has this experience helped you develop?

I developed high level of oral history skills in a short space of time thanks to an oral history training course I completed which was run by the University of Strathclyde. This experience also hugely enriched my networking and interpersonal skills.

Has this experience influenced you career plans?

Most definitely. Upon leaving university, I was largely unsure what job I would go into. I ended up getting a fixed term contract with the National Trust for Scotland at Culloden Battlefield. A full-time administrator job at the property came up and I applied for this. At my interview, this internship was a topic of interest, and I was given the job.

Upon acceptance of the role, I was told that the experience I gained from this internship played a huge part in me being offered the job. I have been in this job since the start of October 2023 and am thoroughly enjoying the responsibility given to me in the day-to-day running of the National Trust’s most profitable property.