The inherent question in almost every interview for a graduate role or even a summer internship is: “Do you have any work experience?” Unfortunately, many students have to answer “no” but the InternPlus programme can help you say yes!
InternPlus provides 12-week part-time internships with various University departments, allowing you to work while you study and to gain the experience needed to stand out from the thousands of students when applying for your dream job!
My name is Milena Zagulak and I experienced the benefits of the programme first hand as a Net Zero Carbon Intern with the Energy Team at the Department of the Estates & Facilities.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the ways technology and engineering can shape the world around us – it is one of the reasons I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the last three and a half years I’ve spent studying for my Masters’ in Mechanical Engineering. However, I felt like I lacked the professional experience within the area that interested me the most – energy and carbon.
The University of Aberdeen set an ambitious target of becoming a net-zero carbon institution by 2040 and, to ensure this goal can be achieved, many energy and carbon saving projects have to be delivered. With such an important goal in mind, when I discovered the post of the Net Zero Carbon Intern, I knew I had to apply.
The InternPlus programme has the well-being of students in mind as it allows for flexible working, meaning that if your university workload increases you can scale down your working hours. As a busy 4th year student, such working arrangements provided me with an ideal opportunity to gain real work experience, while not sacrificing my studies.
Throughout my time at the Energy Team, I had the opportunity to work on various projects, however, one of the most important tasks was to help with outlining a 2022 Net Zero Carbon Projects Registry. The registry includes potential carbon and energy-saving projects, ranging from lighting and heating to building upgrades, including the financial and carbon calculations that I needed to carry out a lot of research to understand, but it was all worth it! The project helped me to gain an insight into the role of an energy manager and further understand energy and carbon assessments.
Another project I was involved in required setting the criteria for potential replacements of the current combined heat and power energy system which provides heat and electricity to the Old Aberdeen Campus. I had to research the different technologies available to power all of the existing university facilities as well as potential new developments. It was a great opportunity to find out more about different energy solutions, how they differ in terms of energy provided but also suitability for a heritage site such as the Old Aberdeen campus.
The most challenging project was assisting my manager in the delivery of a sustainable design guide for new construction. Its main goal was to set energy and carbon targets as well as to outline the best practice procedures tailored to the new University facilities. I was provided with the opportunity to learn a lot about minimizing building’s energy consumption through the right design but also associated carbon emissions throughout their lifecycle. It was a very exciting project to work on as the University of Aberdeen will be the first one in Scotland to publish such guidelines. Thanks to working on this project, I learned how professional technical reports and guides should be written, which differ a lot from the typical university style of writing.
Owing to the Scottish Government restrictions, the whole 12 weeks of the internship were conducted remotely, however, this has not stopped me from meeting people and building connections! Throughout the pandemic, setting up meetings has become easier than ever, as there is no need to travel to speak to someone. I was able to meet people working within various departments across the University and Aberdeen University Student Association.
My manager, Jane Boyle, has been a true mentor to me. She has taught me many of the ins and outs required to be an Energy Manager and encouraged me to pursue this field in the future. It was a great experience to work with different projects and I always felt that I was given meaningful work, which both the university and I will benefit from.
I’m really grateful I decided to apply for the InternPlus programme and I would recommend anyone to apply if you find one of the offered projects interesting. It’s a perfect opportunity to gain real work experience without sacrificing your studies and make yourself stand out in your internship and graduate applications.