In this series, current and former interns at The Brilliant Club are reflecting on their time with the charity, the skills they have learned, and plans for the future.
Why The Brilliant Club?
While looking through summer internship opportunities on my university’s career site, I was delighted to find I could apply to work with The Brilliant Club’s University Partnerships team for four weeks, starting in mid-June and ending mid-July. This was an already-established programme, which promised intern-involvement with the planning and delivery of The Scholars Programme’s summer graduation events I had been a long-time admirer of The Brilliant Club and their Scholars Programme, so the prospect of working for this organisation myself was exciting, to say the least. The charity’s mission of helping less advantaged students not only access but succeed at competitive universities resonates with my own experience as a working class, state-school student studying at the University of Oxford. Although I had many wonderful teachers supporting my application, I still arrived at Oxford feeling totally unprepared. If I had partook in The Scholars Programme during my time at school, I certainly would have found the transition from Northeast state school to elite academic institution a bit more manageable! This is why, in my own independent access work, I try to give a flavour of university learning to students through mock literature seminars and tutorials. Though this smaller-scale, one-on-one work is incredibly rewarding, I also wanted to gain experience at carrying out a larger-scale access programme while improving my understanding of the education and non-profit sector.
The internship: skills and projects
I started my role in the University Partnerships team just as summer graduations for The Scholars Programme were about to kick off, so I had plenty to do from the get-go! To give some context, The Scholars Programme is designed to provide state school students aged 8-18 the opportunity to work with a PhD tutor. The pupils selected to take part attend small-group tutorials and work towards writing a final, graded assignment. This experience with challenging, university-style learning aims to develop students’ knowledge and confidence, so that they feel empowered to secure a future place at a competitive university. The graduation event allows the students to reflect on the skills they have acquired during the programme and, of course, celebrate their achievements! So, it was important that we planned carefully to make these events as enjoyable as deserved.
First on the agenda, then, were the ceremony PowerPoints: we had about 70 to get through in two weeks, so we banded together to keep on top of fast-approaching deadlines. The workload was significant but manageable, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to hone my time management skills.
Before I could even start on these PowerPoints, however, I needed to learn to navigate Salesforce, the organisation’s chosen CRM (customer relationship management) tool. It was vital that the information included in these PowerPoints matched the data on the Salesforce record. Getting to grips with this unfamiliar digital environment took some practice but, sure enough, I was able to collect relevant data and even run my own reports in no time!
Speaking of IT skills, I took on the role of Tech Lead for a week’s worth of online graduation events. This was the most challenging task I was assigned, as the online delivery of graduation events presents its own unique set of difficulties. I was responsible for communicating with the delivery team to solve technical problems, managing last minute changes, and processing the attendance data for each event. By taking on this leadership role, my digital competency, organisation and communication skills were put to the test. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, and I left the role feeling proud of all the hard work I had done. I also drew on my own experience to create a comprehensive briefing document for future tech leads!
The highlight of my internship, however, was supporting an in-person graduation event at Newcastle University. Since I worked from home during these four weeks, it was brilliant to go out and see the result of all our behind-the-scenes work first-hand. As a support team member, I took attendance, guided schools and student ambassadors through the day’s activities, and delivered the Q&A portion of the event, offering my own advice to students where I could. In this role, I exercised my problem-solving skills to adapt to late arrivals and specific student and teacher needs. We received great feedback, and it was especially lovely to hear some of the speeches prepared by the graduating students, who expressed confidence in their academic ability and suitability for university. I went home that day feeling quite emotional, in fact!
One of the most enriching aspects of this internship has to be the lovely working environment I integrated into. The University Partnerships team were so welcoming that I settled into my role almost immediately. My line manager Amirah was especially excellent; there was no problem, big or small, that she couldn’t support me with. It was a joy to work with such a wonderful group of people, and the experience taught me the true value of teamwork.
Looking to the future
Finally, this internship has given me the confidence to pursue future work within the sector. I can’t believe that I’m almost at the end of my four weeks working with the University Partnerships team, but I leave with a sense of pride at what I’ve achieved. I will always be grateful to The Brilliant Club community for all that they have taught me; I hope that this is not a goodbye, but a see-you-later!
My name is Lucy, and I’ve just finished an undergraduate master’s degree in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. I applied for an internship at the Brilliant Club through my university’s summer internship program. I was drawn to The Brilliant Club because my time at the University of Oxford increased my awareness of education inequality, and I know that I was very lucky to be accepted whilst many other students from disadvantaged backgrounds miss out on such a life-changing opportunity. Whilst at Oxford my favourite aspect of teaching was attending tutorials given by PhD students in my department, as I found being taught in small groups and by someone who is passionate about their subject and understands the current challenges of being a student was a really positive learning environment and massively boosted my confidence, so when I saw that The Brilliant Club provided opportunities for school pupils to receive tutoring from PhD students through The Brilliant Tutoring Programme I was very keen to get involved, as a little extra help can make a big difference to a pupil’s confidence.
My role at The Brilliant Club
I was an intern at The Brilliant Club for three weeks under the supervision of a Programme Officer for The Brilliant Tutoring Programme (Isobel Sanders). I helped with the creation of school impact reports, made amendments to course resources, and created resources for new tutors. I also got to learn a bit more about the new Join the Dots programme, which interested me because I found the transition from a non-selective state school to a competitive university very difficult. Having a variety of tasks and getting to meet lots of different (and friendly!) team members made my short time at The Brilliant Club very enjoyable. My confidence in a working environment has definitely improved, and I’ve learned a lot more about education inequality and ways that we can begin to address it.
I am soon to be starting a job as an earth observation foundation scientist at the Met Office, where the communication and organisational skills I have developed during my time at The Brilliant Club will undoubtedly serve me well. I also intend to volunteer as a tutor at the start of the next academic year as I’ve learned a lot about what makes tutoring effective during my internship and think I’d enjoy helping pupils to reach their full potential. I’m looking forward to following future developments of The Brilliant Club and particularly hearing about the impact of the first year of the Join the Dots programme. Thank you to everyone at The Brilliant Club for being so welcoming!