As I live in London, I had to organise my accommodation in Bristol. This was difficult for two reasons – I had to do this during my summer exams and my internship was due to begin 3 weeks after my last exam finished. However, the process was made much easier with the weekly stipend from the internship hence I didn’t have to worry about costs too much.
Initially, I sent Professor Benton an email asking if the university could provide me accommodation. He sent emails around to university staff and his post-graduate students asking if they could help. Unfortunately, none of the students had any spare rooms and the university were taking a long time to get back to me. Therefore I decided to look around for accommodation myself using websites such as Gumtree and Spare room. Although the prices were cheap, I couldn’t find anything that would satisfy my need for privacy so I decided to look at an airbnb and fortunately found just the place I was looking for.
Surprisingly, the university got back to me with a cheaper single spare room in one of the halls but alas, it was too late – I had already booked my airbnb room. I would lose a lot of money if I cancelled my airbnb booking so I had to stick with it. In hindsight, living far away from the Life sciences Building meant that I would get a good dose of walking per day just from going to and from my internship.
On the other hand, organising the dates of my internship were not difficult. The department was very flexible and in the end we settled on splitting the internship into two parts. The first part would be 5 weeks from the middle of June to the end of July and then the second part would be a few weeks in September. So I would still be able to have my holiday!
Tips for planning
Try and start with accommodation as early as you can.
Email your supervisor to see if they can help you find accommodation within the university or from their students.
Websites you could use – Gumtree, Spareroom, Airbnb
Negotiate your stipend with accommodation in mind – staff members agree that the university should provide you with accommodation so they will be keen to help in anyway they can.
As I live and study in London I had to plan my journey to Bristol but that was made easy because I was told that I would be reimbursed for any expenses concerning transport and even lunch on the day. My biggest concern was the panel interview. I was expecting a lot of problem-solving questions – similar to the interviews for university applications.
However, the whole day was much more easy going. Initially, my flatmate and I were welcomed by a cheerful Professor Benton whose amicableness helped put me at ease. After introducing ourselves, we were given a tour of the life sciences building by some post-graduate students. Next, we had our meeting with our potential supervisors, mine being Professor Benton, and finally we had our panel interviews. I was pleasantly surprised as it was not intense as I thought it would be. The questions were quite basic and very open ended which allowed me to expand on my answers and ideas.
The interview flew by and not long after my flatmate and I were on our way back to London to focus on our summer exams. We both felt that the interview had gone well and fortunately the next day I received an email by Professor Benton with an offer for an internship placement.
Tips for the interview
Reread your application and find any areas that you could expand on in the interview.
Try to think of project ideas or interesting topics that the lab you’re applying for could investigate.
Be honest – if you don’t know something just say so or if your answer might sound weird that’s fine as such answers are more likely to stand out.
Don’t be afraid to share your opinion – independent thinking is the only way a field can move forward so interviewers will be impressed if you can think for yourself rather than regurgitating a paper or an article.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – whether it’s to the interview panel or your supervisor its always good to ask questions since it shows you have thought about the subject.
Possible questions that could be asked – Why this project and this lab particular? Why paleontology? What do you hope to achieve with this internship? Do you have any career ideas and how would this internship help you with this?
Starting my second year at university, I was aware that I would need to look for an internship but by nature, I have a wide range of interests, so I wasn’t sure where to start.
However, during term one I took a module on Vertebrate and Palaeontology which I enjoyed very much hence I decided to search for an internship in the field and I found an opportunity at Bristol university. Moreover, the internship was focused for students like me – 2nd year BAME students! So my flatmate and I decided to apply.
Although I had many months to create and refine my application, I, as typical of many students, started my application a week before the deadline during which I was also juggling revision for my summer exams. Fortunately, I was able to send my application 1 minute before the deadline and a week later my flatmate and I received an email back saying that we were invited to an interview.
Despite the struggle of creating the application, it was a good process to go through which will help me in the future when applying for jobs/internship/research positions.
Tips for the (or any) application
Start as early as you can – I sent my application in a rush so didn’t have time to read through it properly. After submitting, I read my application again and instantly found some grammatical errors!
Be authentic – I tried to bring across my motivations for wanting to go into science. This is one of the many ways your application will stand out.
Read around the subject – it’s important you convey your interest in the subject. The best way to do that is to show off extra reading (ideally, this would be related with the lab you’re applying for) e.g. recent papers that caught your eye. This YouTube channel is pretty good in recapping the biggest developments in palaeontology every year.
Make sure the application is focused – read the application page for the internship to make sure the application is tailored to the internship e.g. the page talks about how the internship will help in applications for Master/PhD positions so it would be a good idea to mention what kind of Masters degrees you are thinking about or would like to do.