In the third blog about the Heritage Internships we hosted over the summer, Archaeology undergraduate Ellie Speechly reflects on her experience…
Going into 2020, I was fortunate to have been involved with the University of Exeter’s Professional pathways scheme, an internship programme designed to give students an authentic workplace experience, along with specialist training in a field of their choosing.
As an archaeology undergrad, I was over the moon to have been accepted and was waiting with anticipation for a heritage-related placement! But much like the rest of the world, all these plans were put on hold thanks to the covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the efforts of the PPS team and the wonderful collaborating organisations, remote working positions were arranged so no-one missed out on gaining from this worthwhile and professionally enriching experience. I was privileged to have been offered a role at the University itself with the Heritage Innovation department, a team that ensures the University has an extensive pool of partnerships and collaboration networks, operating on an international scale.
I gained infallible insight into the networking skills required within the heritage sector, in addition to learning how many large-scale organisations such as the National Trust operate. Myself and a fellow student were entrusted to assist in researching and constructing a compressive report, containing all ongoing and completed partnerships, operations of memorandum and projects that the Humanities department were/are undertaking, in addition to the staff involved. This will later become a digital tool for students, staff and external parties to consult in order to better understand the vast number of projects the University has had a hand in. I was particularly proud of the sheer quantity of information my colleague and I managed to read and research; it was all so interesting and engaging that I could easily have spent days at a time reading about a single project, such as those ongoing with Powderham Castle or the fascinating upcoming project on Vivien Leigh being untaken by the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. The internship proved to be great practice in contacting those within the heritage field, in attention to building relationships with those in the sector that has proven valuable as a new graduate, particularly in these difficult times! Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, my internship was a wonderful experience as it provided me with realistic skills needed in the heritage sector today, such as effective communication and research through more innovative means. I’m now fortunate enough to be involved with the SS Great Britain as a direct thanks to my wonderful employers, who have continued to support, mentor and provide invaluable insight and advice into the world of work.
Though working remotely had its set-backs, with interaction being limited to the video chatting format, with which we are all so familiar with now, I couldn’t have asked for better employers or co-workers. I cannot express in words how unbelievably enriching both personally and professionally this internship has proven to be and I would highly recommend to anyone to apply and give it your best shot.
Good luck and all the best in all your upcoming endeavours!