How to make the most out of your internship: reflections from our research interns

As part of the School of Wildlife Conservation’s exciting research project looking at the scale and potential of the wildlife economy in Africa, we recruited four ALU student interns to support the report development process from May to August 2020.

The study interns supported the SOWC team to collect, collate and analyze data from all 54 African countries, using online databases and literature.  The data collected is going towards the State of the Wildlife Economy in Africa report, due to be published in February 2021.  The interns also provided information for text boxes and case studies and developed a few excellent new tools to assist with the referencing and general data management.  

 

 

 

We had a chat with the interns and here is a summary of our conversation

 

What was the nature of your internship? How would you describe your daily routine?

Our main role was to collect data and analyse information from different sources that were needed to answer research questions. It was an amazing adventure where we all got to explore different economic activities in Africa’s conservation space and understood how each one contributes to countries’ economy and the wellbeing of people living around protected areas.

 

What were your expectations before you started the internship? How were these expectations affected by global pandemic?

We had very high expectations for the internship. Overall, our hope was that through this internship we would be able to explore different business opportunities in Africa’s conservation sector. Through the guidance and support of our internship managers, we integrated ourselves into the research team; our individual opinions were valued by the team, we learnt new skills and provided technical advice on research papers. Though our experiences with COVID-19 are relative to our various locations and circumstances, the research work continued unabated with online desktop research and innovative ways of working that were very inclusive.

 

In what ways were you able to apply what you have learned in your academic coursework to your internship?

This internship has brought a further emphasis on the importance of our Leadership Core courses and degree courses as life-long tools. We analysed data with skills from our Data and Decision classes, analysed context using Entrepreneurial Leadership skills and read resources with critical thinking from conservation workshops and Communication for Impact classes. Indeed, every single engagement at ALU came in handy in one way or the other.

 

What kind of professional skills have you gained during your internship?

During this internship, we have honed skills like report writing; policy analysis; research; teamwork, data auditing, wildlife conservation consulting, engagement, self-leadership, professional communication skills and time management skills. These skills I believe will prepare me for my future beyond ALU.

 

In what ways has the internship developed these skills?

The skills were developed through different tasks we were assigned including, collecting data for different report sections, writing text boxes, engagement with government agencies among others. Self-leadership and management were very key to the success of the internship experience because of the remote nature of the work.

 

How might you apply what you learned during your internship to your academic coursework and beyond?

Overall, this experience will help us become better researchers and produce compelling research papers about Wildlife Economy in Africa. Some of us are in our final years and we will use the takeaways to produce the best capstone paper. The opportunity has also opened our eyes to different business opportunities to explore once we launch our careers in conservation after university. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 remote working experience has become an asset for our virtual academic term. With this, we have developed the acumen to engage productively across virtual teams.

 

Have you identified any skills or areas that you would like to develop further?

Over the internship period, we have gone through rigorous research training. Ability to write and publish peer-reviewed academic papers is a skill that we all agree we would like to further develop. With the support of our network of conservation experts within and beyond, SOWC, we will be able to hone this skill.

 

What was the most interesting part of your internship?

Our experiences differ but being given the flexibility to explore our research interests and the opportunity to publish our research findings are the most interesting part of the experience. Also, though we were all spread across Africa, our Monday weekly check-ins were packed with intellectual discourse and one to always look forward to.

 

Were your expectations met/unmet or exceeded by the end of your internship?

Our expectations were exceeded. We were immersed in much more than initially anticipated but in a very good way. It was challenging but it was also fun to learn while working on something tangible.

 

A quote to describe your internship experience

There is a quote our supervisor shared of Nelson Mandela where he said that ‘’it always seems impossible until it’s done’’. The experience has been like a roller coaster but with a lot of learning.

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