Hello friends, today, I am going to talk about how I managed to secure 2 separate internship roles at the local university when I was a high school student.
Why I Started Looking For University Internships
I decided to look for university internships because I wanted to challenge myself academically. I think that this form of exposure is a good way to prepare me for university in the future, and it will also broaden my knowledge. It will provide real-life experience and enable one to gain first-hand exposure of working in the real world.
What I Learnt During My University Internship Experience
You can acquire endless amounts of education in your life, however, that knowledge doesn’t always translate to the working life. My internship experience made me realize how little I knew, and filled me with excitement for my future education. Internships provide a nice learning curve for students with little experience of the professional world.
The internships were also a good opportunity for me to learn more about myself and my interest. It helped me to narrow down my career paths. I also had a few job shadowing opportunities too which were helpful as well.
Both of my university internships were related to the field of Ecology, and that further sparked my interest and confirmed my enthusiasm for the field. Do keep in mind that internships does not mean that you will be working in that field in the future, they are all exploratory and are for us students to identify our interests.
You may have heard different stories from different people and platforms, but you can’t be totally sure if you enjoy or do not enjoy something until you have tried and experienced it for yourself.
My internship experience also taught me networking and communication skills, as I had to maintain a good and professional relationship with my internship supervisor. There were many opportunities where I had to meet new people introduced to me by my supervisor. I had to attend lab meetings at the university every week, and it was pretty daunting at first as I was the only high school student in a room full of University Professors and PhD. students. I had to learn how to communicate with people in a professional manner. In other words, strengthening my soft skills.
These experiences also forced me to step out of my comfort zone as I got to do things that I have never done before, such as learning how to use the Geographic Information System, or GIS for short, to plot and analyze data on birds species. It also boosted my self-confidence and I believe I would be more comfortable with learning new things in the future.
My Advice in Choosing an Internship
Do not put so much pressure over yourself for choosing the “right” internship. There is no right or wrong internship. In my case, there is a high chance that I may not end up doing a job around Ecology, although I am interested in it now. There are so many other fields of science that I have yet to explore, and we can never predict the future.
Hence, my suggestion to you is to look for internships with an open mind, and take it as an opportunity to figure our what you like and what you do not like. Figuring this out early is beneficial and can not only help you to choose your university course, but also help you in the future when you are applying for a job.
How to Find University Internship as a High School Student
The following steps that I will be illustrating was based on what I did and the university that I interned in, and the exact procedure may not be the same as different university have different layouts for their website, but it shouldn’t differ by too much.
First, pick a university that you are interested in. Then, you can google the university name, followed by science research news. Basically all universities that offer science courses publish research papers every year, and many of the papers are published by professors teaching at the university.
The first website that popped up when I searched for “NUS science research news” is ‘Research News”, and clicked it.
Clicking that link will take you to a page that basically consist of the different research findings and papers published by the university. For example, I found an article on research on structural changes in noble metal catalysts during carbon monoxide (CO) oxidation, and, improving water quality with aquatic plants.
There are many research articles available on the website, there are 43 pages in total as at when writing this article.
So I clicked a research on Ecology, “Better approaches needed to tackle informal gold mining“. after which I was brought into another page, which basically summarized the research and findings. What I did was a read many different articles like this, and for those that interested me, I looked up on the professor who published that article. The name of the Professor will most likely be somewhere together with the research article. In this case, the name of the professor is at the top of the page, called Professor Edward Webb. This is just an example that I am illustrating, I did not do an internship under this professor.
I then copy and pasted the name of the professor onto a new google page, and typed his name, the university name and email address like this “Edward Webb nus email address“.
I found out Professor Webb is under the Department of Biological Sciences in the university. I then click into the website, and found his details. Normally all university professors have a page with their contact details in the university website.
You want to find the Professor’s email address first before you continue to research about the professor because when I was googling different professors, I spent a lot of time reading up about their other research papers and could not find their email address in the end, so I had no way of contacting them.
If you scroll down, it shows an introduction of the professor, his academic qualifications, research interests, and publications. As you can see, for Professor Webb, he is interested in applied plant ecology, and human-biodiversity interface. If the professor’s interests are aligned with yours, you can continue researching about the professor. If not, you may look up a different professor.
For example, I am reading his publications and I am interested in this publication titled “Factors affecting tropical tree damage and survival after catastrophic wind damage“. So you can select the title, and google it. You can read the whole research paper, but to save time, you can just read the abstract, which is a brief summary of the research article. You can read a few of the professor’s work that you find interesting, and do take notes of what you have learnt from the professor’s work, or any questions that you have regarding the research that the professor did.
These preparations are for the next few steps. If the university website does not have the professor’s publications, you can simply google the professor’s name, and type: research paper behind it, and it is quite easy to find their publications.
Google Scholar Citations is a pretty good website. you can click into it, and it will show you many of the professor’s publications. you can then copy and paste the ones that you find interesting, and read up on it.
After you have read up on a few of the professor’s publications, you can email the professor. You need to write a formal email that sounds professional. In my email, I started with a short sentence telling the Professor my name, age, and school. The next paragraph was talking about my interest in the professor’s work. You need to include specific examples, such as the findings that you found fascinating, or anything that shocked you. If you have any questions that you wrote down previously, it is good to ask questions regarding the professor’s work. This is to show the professor your interest in his or her work.
My next paragraph was talking about the things that I did related to science. Since the professor that I emailed was an Ecology professor, so I talked about the things that I did related to Ecology and the environment. For me, I included a fundraiser that I did to raise awareness about environment and wildlife conservation. You can include any books that you read and the parts that you find interesting. Do not just state the things that you have done, you want to also include the lesson learnt from these things.
My last paragraph was basically telling the professor about my interest in an internship with him or her.
I then ended the email by thanking the professor for taking the time to read it, and signed off formally.
Bear in mind that university professors are incredibly busy, and probably will not have time to reply you. I wrote a lot of emails, and only 2 professors replied with the answer that I was hoping for. I also received lots of rejections, and many did not reply at all. So, don’t get too upset if you did not get a reply. It was after almost 6 months of sending emails when I got my first reply, and each email takes a long time to write as I have to read up on the professor’s publications and summarize my personal learning points and questions from them.
Hence, do not give up, and keep sending out those emails. Also, make sure that your emails are good-quality, professional-sounding email. You want to let the professor to have the impression that you are serious and really want to learn.
If you are not sure of how to write the email, or would want me to help you in any way, I am happy to help you. You can comment down below.
My Internship Experience
For my first internship, the professor replied my email and wanted to interview me at his office in the university the week after. I was pretty nervous, but really excited. My mom was really kind and brought me to visit the university campus the day before the interview. The university was really big, and we had a really hard time trying to find the professor’s office. Eventually, we found it. Luckily, it was the day before the interview, if not, I would probably be even more stressed out and be all sweaty when I meet the professor, which would not have left a very good impression. The week before the interview, I reviewed my email and printed out the research papers that I have mentioned in the email and went through all of them in detail. In this way, I familiarized myself again with the professor’s work, as I did send the email out to this professor a few months ago.
I also read up on articles surrounding the topics that my professor is interested in, and wrote down the main learning points on a paper. I review everything again before I went in for the interview.
The interview went great, and it was surprisingly informal. The professor also asked about my future aspirations, and I shared with him about my interest in Ecology. He told me about the work that he hope I can help with, and gave me some homework to do.
For my second internship, the professor sent me a research paper that she had published and also asked me to meet her at her office. I read through the research paper thoroughly and gathered many questions. The meet-up wasn’t an interview like the first one, it was the professor telling me about what she wanted me to help her in for her next project.
Both of my internship experience was eye-opening, and I am extremely grateful for these 2 professors to have provided me with such opportunities.
To conclude, opportunities do not come easily, you can’t just sit around and wait for your school to let you sign up for something, you have to actively seek out for it, and once you do, you will be surprised at the result. It is better to be active than passive.
This article is a summary of what I did to find university internships, you do not have to follow it exactly, as everyone has their own way of doing things. But the main idea is that there are many platforms for you to seek out and connect with university professors.
Again, if you have any questions, kindly leave a comment down below, I am happy to help.
Lastly, thank you very much for reading this article, I hope that you found it helpful, and if you want to see more content like this, please leave your suggestions in the comment section down below.