This summer the usual office job was not an option. EFI’s student intern Paulette Mukarurangwa shares her experience of joining the team – from virtual tea breaks to online event planning – and tells us how remote interning worked for her.
Introductions and interest
My name is Paulette Sonia Mukarurangwa, and I am a second-year student majoring in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a MasterCard Foundation Scholar at the University of Edinburgh. For three months over the summer, I interned as a Project Assistant at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). I heard of EFI for the first time during Flexible Learning Week through an event on Artificial Intelligence. I attended the event because I was curious to learn how AI has created a thick tissue around every aspect of our lives, economic, social and political. The event responded to my expectations – research and talk to uncover the controversial impact of current technologies on our communities is still rare and I was excited to find discussions happening here in Edinburgh.
From there, my interest in EFI increased with the MasterCard Foundation Summer School’s project. The underlying message in EFI’s vision became clearer: its work is both society and individual-oriented. This appealed to me and fit with my own study area.
My role over the summer mostly entailed working on the project for renovating building that the Institute will move into and working with the communications and marketing team. I was able to help with organising EFI events and engaging students.
The internship – overview and impact
Working with the Edinburgh Futures Institute has been a fulfilling experience in different ways. From working within a great team to learning various transferable skills that will be handy in my career as an engineer. Much of my role involved working directly with the Senior Project Manager in charge of EFI’s new building; and this became an opportunity to understand some of the work involved in restoring a Category A-listed building.
The first project I worked on was to research various policies and guidelines from the University of Edinburgh that were important to understand and utilise in the building renovation project. I also did some work with the development of an online tour of the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s building. The Old Royal Infirmary (one of Edinburgh’s most loved historic buildings) is being renovated for the Institute. Importantly, this new building will be designed for students to use and this makes their perceptions of the building vital. In this context, I conducted research to understand students’ perspectives on current study spaces at the University of Edinburgh. The purpose of the research was to help EFI make better-informed decisions that will support students and their use of the space.
Working with the event team, I conducted another piece of research to help EFI understand and choose the right tools and platform for online events. Other work with the communications and marketing team involved planning, organising and running events with EFI, working with many different project and academic stakeholders. My final piece of work was to conduct an audit of the Institute’s website. This will help plans for their new website.
Reflection and takeaways
The most important thing I learned from the experience was the importance of being able to leave my comfort zone. With an engineering background, my day-to-day life involves following a set of instructions in a manual and making many calculations. When I started working with EFI, I knew it would be different and I wanted to make sure my performance was close to perfect. Asking questions, admitting a lack of knowledge in certain fields and asking for help has made the experience much more enlightening and enjoyable. Additionally, this internship has been an opportunity to reinforce some transferable skills that I need as an engineering student. I had opportunities to improve my communication skills – especially in a virtual setting, work on time management and organisational skills, public speaking, research and teamwork. I am sad to depart from the team but I am happy for the personal and professional growth.