5 ways to make the most of your virtual internship

Student making the most of his virtual internship

The transition to virtual work during the pandemic has officially stuck. While some companies remained entirely remote, others have adopted hybrid models that allow employees to work part-time from home and part-time in person. Now, students need to ask an important question before applying to any internship: will it be an in-person or virtual internship?

Both in-person and virtual or remote internships are great opportunities for professional development. They may help you decide your future career, build your resume, network, and develop skills that you can apply elsewhere. Some internship programs also connect you with other students or interns interested in similar jobs. Completing an internship before or after you graduate from university can support your career and future job applications.

Why do a virtual internship?

In addition to gaining invaluable work experience, virtual internships offer a ton of benefits. A big one is their flexibility. You can often create your own schedule and work from anywhere in the world, and get things done between meetings or projects. They also save you the time and money you’d spend on a commute. It’s even possible to have a virtual internship while taking classes at university.

Young student making the most of his virtual internship
Photo credit: Ground Studio, Shutterstock

While it’s nice to intern from the comfort of your couch, virtual internships do come with challenges. It’s difficult to get started in a new position when training is entirely online. You’ll likely become an expert in using free, online platforms like Slack, Google Drive, Trello, or LinkedIn. These platforms connect you with co-workers, but they take time to learn and get used to.

Here are five things you can do to overcome these challenges and make the most of your virtual internship.

These are some tips for success at your virtual internship.

1. Communicate

During a virtual internship, It’s tempting to sit on the couch, veg out, and decide to finish your project another time. But if you have a strong line of communication, you’re more likely to connect with your co-workers and less likely to fall behind. This is why communication is key to a successful remote internship. Learning to communicate effectively is also a skill that can be applied in any workplace.

Pro-tip: on your first day, ask your manager, supervisor, and co-workers for the best way to reach them.

2. Set goals and reflect.

Goal-setting is an effective way to make sure that you’re making the most of your internship. Before starting your internship, spend an hour writing out your goals. Sharing these goals with your employer will allow them to understand what you want to learn from the experience. Hopefully, they can then help you make the most of your internship.

Pro-tip: keep track of your goals. If you’re not meeting those goals, reassess them and discuss them with your supervisor.

3. Find a comfortable space.

It can be mind-numbing to work, sleep, and eat all in the same place. Interning from home makes it difficult to separate your professional work life and home life. In this case, we recommend finding a space to work outside of your house. If you can access an outdoor area, coffee shop, co-working space, or library, try checking them out!

Pro-tip: reach out to someone you know and find a working space together. Social interaction can increase your productivity.

Young student making the most of her virtual internship
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

4. Create a routine with frequent breaks.

If you’re struggling to get into a rhythm during a remote internship, know you’re not alone. Remote internships often lack structure. It’s challenging to know when to start, stop, or take a break from work. Creating a routine can help you mimic a real workplace environment. Try asking your employer if there are daily or weekly meetings you can join. Additionally, schedule frequent breaks away from your work or computer to prevent burnout.

Pro-tip: during breaks, try going for a walk outside or meeting up with a friend.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

One of the more challenging aspects of virtual internships is that it can be difficult to ask for help. You can’t exactly turn to the person next to you to ask a question. Instead, you have to reach out over online platforms, which can seem daunting. But asking for help is better than sitting at your computer wondering what to do. It’s also better than doing something incorrectly. Take the opportunity to ask questions and clarify what you don’t understand.

Pro-tip: if you’re struggling with STEM tasks, Proprep has courses and content to support you.

Unsure if an internship is right for you?

If committing to a full- or part-time internship seems difficult, it may be beneficial to look for an externship. Externships are typically short-term professional experiences that can last from a day to a few weeks. They can be online or in-person, making them extremely flexible. Externs gain insight into an industry, company, or career by shadowing a professional in the field. These opportunities are perfect for students who want to gain work experience, build their skills, or network during the school year.

Are you suffering from academic burnout at university?

What is burnout?

Sometimes student life feels like every time you meet a deadline, another one looms. You’re constantly waiting for this crazy week to be over, just to have an even crazier one coming up. Staying on top of your workload is a challenge, but overworking isn’t sustainable for multiple weeks in a row. If you try and do too much in a short space of time, you’ll exhaust yourself – hello, academic burnout!

Lots of stress over a long period of time – aka, a uni term – can lead to a feeling of exhaustion. This fatigue can be physical, mental and emotional or all three. Professor Kim Hirabayashi of the University of Southern California says that burnout is a catch-all term that ultimately means “the opposite of thriving”.

University student suffering from academic burnout, sitting at desk with laptop
Photo credit: SB Arts Media, Shutterstock

Academic burnout symptoms

Academic burnout is unlikely to be caused by one thing in particular. However, there are several aspects of student life likely to cause added stress and make burnout more likely. These include work overload, accommodation worries, feeling isolated due to online learning, and financial concerns.

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s very common and can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life. But too much stress can affect our mood, body and relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. If you ignore the signs of stress and neglect to manage it properly, you’ll eventually burn out.

Some physical signs of academic burnout:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity and frequent illnesses
  • Headaches and/or muscle pain
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits

Some emotional signs of academic burnout:

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, or overwhelmed
  • Detachment and/or loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Some behavioural signs of academic burnout:

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or racing thoughts
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustration on others
University student suffering from academic burnout asleep on his desk
Photo credit: Antonio Guillem, Shutterstock

Burnout recovery

Take a break

It sometimes feels like doing well in uni work is the world’s most important thing. While it’s admirable to be taking your work seriously, your mental and physical health should always be number one. If you’re feeling burnt out, you’ve probably prioritised work at the expense of your wellbeing. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be productive all the time, especially during the pandemic.

The first thing to do when experiencing academic burnout is to take a step back from your work. Take a couple of days off and make sure you really relax, whatever that means for you (sport, reading, time with friends, bubble baths…). This might feel like the last thing you should be doing with exams or deadlines approaching. However, getting some breathing space will help you regain your energy, and be more productive in future.

Challenge your negative thoughts

The way we think affects the way we feel. Try and challenge unhelpful thoughts by considering the good things in your life. Of course, this is way easier said than done. But focussing on the good in your life will remind you that the world is bigger than your uni campus. You have so much more going for you than just your marks!

Try to stop comparing yourself with others and adding unnecessary academic pressure. Every day, list three things about your own life that you’re thankful for. These can be as big as an important person in your life and as small as finding a 50p piece on the floor.

Talk to someone

Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline can all help when you’re struggling from excessive stress and student burnout. Though uni can sometimes feel like a lonely place, there are lots of people there that have your back. Try and seek help early instead of waiting until you’re at crisis point. See our mental health tips for more info.

Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Talking to a good listener is a great way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Try and schedule quality time with uni friends, or call important people in your life. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.

University student suffering from academic burnout speaking on the phone
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

Build a good schedule

As you go forward, try and stick to a schedule that gives you lots of breaks and time off. If you want to keep up a good momentum for a long period of time, you need to pace yourself. For example, if you’re studying hard until 4 or 5 pm, there’s no need to keep going into the evening! Take a look at our post on time management for more advice on setting good boundaries. Use all your time off to chill, unwind, spend time with other people, and get enough sleep.

Set reasonable goals so you can stick to them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large tasks like ‘Start Chemistry revision’. Breaking it down into ‘Chapter 1 notes’, ‘Chapter 1 practice questions’, etc, will make it more manageable. You can keep your morale up by ticking lots off your to-do list, thus avoiding burnout.

Remember your work-life balance

Life at uni is about loads more than your actual degree. Joining a club or society can be a great way to do something you enjoy and boost your mood. You can even meet nice people and create a community. However, don’t take too much on – you don’t have to say yes to every social activity or study group! Only do the things that bring you joy.

Exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing when your energy is low. But just 15 minutes of movement can make a huge impact on your mood, especially if you manage to spend the time outdoors. There’s a form of sport for everyone: it can be as simple as moving from your desk to the floor for a yoga video.

The freebie guide to freshers’ week

The freshers’ fair is a crucial staple of freshers’ week – wandering around a big hall or gazebo, 700 flyers in hand, trying to decide if you want to commit yourself to the Quidditch team or the Cheese Society. Make sure to go with an open mind, hungry tummy, and empty backpack. As well as being a great chance to discover all the different activities on offer, you’ll leave drowning in freebies.

Coupons and vouchers will come in handy later, but the physical giveaways are great for stocking up your room, kitchen, and pencil case. Whether you’re a returning student or you’ve just got your A Level results, check out our guide for the very best of the free haul! 

Click here for more advice on making the most of freshers’ week

Food glorious food

The people running every stall know that the foolproof way to a student’s heart is through their stomach. Both uni clubs and businesses will try to leave a sweet aftertaste with you, so look out for sweets, chocolates and doughnuts. At some campuses, you’ll find supermarkets handing out goody bags of student essentials like beans and noodles. Take them back to stock up your kitchen, and save money and stress later!

Domino’s and Pizza Hut visit a lot of freshers’ weeks with a deal for free pizza slices. If you see them, don’t hold back! Keep an eye out for deals and vouchers from other restaurant chains and local eateries. They’re all waiting to welcome you to your new home city.

Photo credit: Y. A. Photo, Shutterstock

Kitchen freebies

Look out for branded mugs, water bottles, flasks, and pint glasses. With enough random giveaways, you’ll be able to go a whole week without washing anything up – win! Some people find cooking utensils and other important supplies at the freshers’ fair, which will save you a desperate supermarket trip down the line.

Fridge magnets are surprisingly useful. How else would you stick up all your takeaway menus, or remind your flatmates that your leftover sushi is NOT up for grabs? Bonus points if they double up as a bottle opener or other device.

Gadgets and gizmos a-plenty 

While businesses and societies want to entice you in with food, they also want to gift you techie things you’ll actually appreciate and use. While you’ve probably got a set of headphones and a portable phone charger, it’s good to have a spare or two (or five!). Some stalls will also have things like USB sticks and splitters. We bet you’ve been meaning to buy yourself one of these but never got around to it, so take them all.

Freshers’ week stationery

Does anyone buy pens anymore? You’ll probably receive a lifetime supply of highlighters, biros, and other stationery handouts at the freshers’ fair. If you’re lucky, you might find an academic planner or a wall calendar. These will help you keep track of the whirlwind of activity that makes up a uni term.

While you can’t write with a stress ball, they’re (unfortunately) library essentials. Hang onto them and to anything else that could calm you down in an essay crisis. 

Photo credit: Firina, iStock

Miscellaneous

Brands will put their name on anything they can get you to carry around. It’s free advertising for them, but you’ll also benefit from a new pyjama T-shirt or a pair of socks. Tote bags are eco-friendly and useful for transporting your stuff around campus. And of course, umbrellas are a must-have in the unpredictable UK climate!

Some freebies new to the tables in 2021 might include masks and hand sanitiser gel. Whether you’re avoiding the freshers’ flu or something more sinister, stay safe and happy at uni with these supplies.

Catch us at your freshers’ fair! 

Proprep will be all over the country during freshers’ week 2021. We hope to see you at one of the following locations…

  • Uni of Edinburgh – 13th Sept
  • Uni of Glasgow – 14th Sept
  • Uni of Exeter – 17th Sept
  • LSE – 20th Sept
  • Uni of Manchester – 20th Sept
  • Uni of Leeds – 21st Sept
  • QMUL – 22nd Sept
  • Uni of Nottingham – 22nd Sept
  • Swansea Uni – 22nd Sept
  • Kings College London – 23rd Sept
  • Uni of Liverpool – 23rd Sept
  • Uni of Kent – 24th Sept
  • Uni of Surrey – 24th Sept
  • Uni of Bristol – 25th Sept
  • De Montfort Uni – 27th Sept
  • Uni of Warwick – 28th Sept
  • Newcastle Uni – 28th Sept
  • Cardiff Uni – 30th Sept
  • UCL – 2nd Oct
  • Imperial College London – 5th Oct
  • Uni of Oxford – 6th Oct

…and more! Can’t wait to meet you all!

Discover how to make the most of Freshers’ Week 2021

Freshers’ week – also called welcome week – is one of the highlights of the university calendar. It’s an immensely busy time, filled with new faces, important admin, and copious amounts of alcohol. Follow our guide to both survive and thrive during freshers’ week, and come out feeling confident and excited about the year ahead at university!

Photo credit: Prostock Studio, Shutterstock

Get the admin under control

First things first, try and get a copy of the events schedule for freshers’ week when you arrive, so you can plan ahead. You’ll probably have a few meetings to attend, such as welcome talks with your department and induction sessions with the library and sports facilities. Though these may sound a little boring, they’ll be super helpful in the long run. 

Check where your teaching spaces are, and locate your nearest supermarket, pharmacy, and other important shops. Some universities set a deadline by which you have to register with a new local GP, but even if yours doesn’t, register anyway! Especially in a year like this one, it’s important to know your health will be taken care of when you need it.

“So, what kind of things are you into?”

You’ve probably never been around so many new people from so many different places as during freshers’ week. Make sure to bring a doorstop, so your new neighbours feel comfortable popping their heads in and saying hello. Invite them in for a chat and a cuppa if you really want to win them over!

As well as hopefully bonding with the friends living around you, you’ll meet people on your course, older students, and countless others. Be prepared for a lot of Facebook adds, and having the same awkward opener conversation over and over. Also, make sure to choose a fun fact about yourself in advance for any classic freshers’ week icebreakers and get-to-know-you games.

It’s obviously great to be friendly to everyone you meet at university. However, lots of people feel pressure to become an immediate BNOC (big name on campus). Don’t give in to the panic! Everyone showing off their fun on social media is just as confused and nervous as you. You don’t need to make your best friends for life on day one – there’s lots of time to find your tribe.

Explore the freshers’ fair

The freshers’ fair generally happens over a couple of days during freshers’ week. It’ll give you the chance to learn about every society and extra-curricular activity on offer at your university. You can speak to student reps at each stall, and sign up for mailing lists so that you don’t miss upcoming events.

Extra-curricular activities are a great way to round out your CV when it comes to the job hunt. More importantly though, you’ll meet lots of new like-minded people and get some crucial chill time amidst the chaos of the uni term. Are you considering playing a new sport, getting involved in performing arts, joining a religious society, or something more niche? Whatever it is, we recommend throwing yourself into the fun and trying everything at least once!

Another thing to note about the freshers’ fair is that almost every brand and company will have special deals and rates for students. You’ll receive a ton of freebies, coupons and discount codes, so keep them safe and use them to save money later on. When out shopping, remember to ask if the shop you’re in gives student discounts. An NUS card or university ID can get you 10% off in most places (which almost makes the degree worth it).

Freshers’ week nightlife

When you picture yourself during freshers’ week, it’s probably dancing in a club surrounded by lots of sweaty fellow students. This year, universities are optimistic that students won’t need to miss out on the nightlife scene. However, it’s important to stay as smart and as safe as possible. As well as being COVID-aware, remember not to drink on an empty stomach. Keep an eye on your belongings (especially your drink), and don’t venture off alone in unfamiliar areas. If you do end up going a bit too hard, make sure to get some fluids and carbs in you the next morning. Exercising will be the last thing you’ll feel like doing, but sweating the alcohol out is an amazing hangover cure. If that sounds too ambitious, at least leave home for a walk to get some fresh air. 

The freshers’ week hype can make people who aren’t so crazy about clubbing feel a bit alienated. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. There are always a mix of different events on offer, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Night markets, movie marathons and yoga classes are more chilled alternatives that are really fun. While social events are planned for every moment of the week, don’t feel pressured to attend them all. Freshers’ week can be draining, and it’s important to acknowledge when you need some downtime.

Photo credit: Jacob Lund, Shutterstock

Help and support

Adjusting to university life is hard. It might seem that you’re the only one who feels anxious or homesick, but this is really the opposite of the truth. All universities will have dedicated and friendly welcome teams of older students there to guide you. Don’t be afraid to speak to them if you feel a little lost. They can listen without judgement, suggest events that you might enjoy, and direct you to the right services if you need further support.

Remember to eat well and keep yourself fuelled during freshers’ week to avoid illness or burnout. Try to avoid the dreaded freshers’ flu by taking plenty of vitamins. If you do think you’ve caught it, give yourself a day or two to recuperate before hitting the town again. If you think you’ve contracted anything more serious, don’t hesitate to contact a health professional or your uni’s pastoral care.

Click here to read our top tips for international students

What happens if freshers’ week goes virtual?

Large events are all dependent on the changing COVID-19 situation. Lots of unis have already moved faffy admin tasks online in response to the pandemic – a silver lining to this whole mess! However, they are reluctant to cancel the in-person freshers’ fair or other social activities. 

If something drastic changes and you do end up having to navigate freshers’ week through your laptop, try to keep an open mind. Although it’s not ideal to be meeting people and finding out about clubs and societies online, it’s definitely possible. Some unis have even organised virtual DJ sets, quiz nights and escape rooms. Hopefully you’ll have lovely flatmates and neighbours to bubble with, and if not, you can find people online who are in the same boat.

If your liver and your wallet are both a bit worse for wear when freshers’ week is over, don’t worry. As we said above, it’s great to try and make the most of the week, but remember that it won’t define your uni experience. Once teaching starts, things will calm down, and you’ll fall into more of a routine.