Reflecting on my internship experience as a Psychology Research Assistant

By Gona Mustafa, Psychology graduate

As my internship comes to an end, I find it hard to believe that 13 weeks have flown by so fast. When I first received an email from Tim Ward (Work Experience Consultant from the University of Salford’s Career Development and Employability Team) offering me a 13 week internship experience in psychology, I was really unsure of what to expect. As exciting as “become a graduate associate in Psychology and gain vital work based experience towards a graduate role” sounded, I was not sure about doing it. It was a full time job, something that I did not see myself doing straight after graduation, particularly as I had to manage it alongside family commitments. On the other hand, I felt truly lucky and I thought this was a once in lifetime chance to work alongside such professional and knowledgeable individuals.  It was an opportunity to interact with people who have expertise in what they do, to learn and gain valuable real-world experience in the field of my degree, and to use what I had learned over the last three years in a professional setting.

It turned out that taking on the internship was the best decision I have ever made. I was invited to a pre internship session along with other interns, where we were told about what to expect during the internship. We were also asked to write down three goals that we’d like to achieve by the end of the internship; my goals were to:

  1. Build self-confidence.
  2. Gain practical work experience in the fields of psychology.
  3. Familiarise myself with professional working environment.

After the session, I went to meet my line manager (Dr Gemma Taylor) and I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and understanding she was.  She explained what the research involved which was “Investigating the effects of media on toddler’s word learning” and the aim of this research was to help shape our understanding of how children use media to acquire language, and gave me a vague idea of my role. After that meeting I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to start the internship.

In the first week, despite feeling slightly anxious, Gemma made me feel really welcome and provided me with a list of tasks to get me started. I started by doing some literature searches on the research, which I thoroughly enjoyed and it helped me enrich my knowledge about the subject.  The following weeks I had the opportunity to carry out a number of different tasks such as researching, reading and summarising research articles, writing an introduction, coding and double coding videos. I also designed an experimental condition, tried out different equipment and video cameras to use during the experiment which involved handling sensitive and confidential data.  In addition, carrying out the activities above allowed me to use the skills I had learned during my degree as well as learning new skills such as transcribing and double coding data.

Gemma supported me in learning how to deal with setbacks in the workplace in an effective manner and view them as an opportunity to explore and broaden my knowledge about the topic. In addition, as part of the internship we had the opportunity to take part in regular professional training from the university’s professional service and careers and employability development teams which I found extremely beneficial. We also had access to career coaching at the end of our internship, which was designed to help us deal with any issues academic, personal or professional that is limiting our ability to gain graduate level role.

My experience as an intern has been a big learning process. I’m certainly glad that I took the opportunity – not only have I learned much more than I could have ever expected, it has also prepared me for the real world. I have managed to achieve most of my goals and gained many transferable skills such as time management, balancing work and family life, solving problems and dealing well with unexpected situations.  In addition, I have much more confidence in my abilities, met so many inspiring people, and learned more about possible career paths.

I’m extremely grateful for this experience and amazed by what I have achieved in a short period of time. I can’t thank my line manager Dr Gemma Taylor and the University of Salford’s Career Development and Employability Team enough, especially Tim Ward, for giving me such amazing and enriching experience.