Virtual internships and graduating from home

I can’t believe I’m saying this; it has been an entire year since 'graduated' from my English degree. I still air quote whenever I say I’ve 'graduated'; it still doesn’t feel like something that I’ve actually, officially done. Despite my degree certificate, the connotations that are attached to 'graduated' just don’t feel complete to me; with no proper goodbyes or genuine celebrations with my peers, it remains an incomplete chapter.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I am incredibly proud of the work I have achieved during the global pandemic. I have been resilient and pushed myself into the labour market even when it felt like a losing uphill battle, and I have made a lot of progress towards getting into my desired job industry.

Life as a new graduate

I won’t lie, this time last year I was worried that we would be the ‘Unemployed Class of 2020’. Letting friends know via a Snapchat that I had finished my degree, followed by a celebration with my parents and a takeaway, was the start of what I thought would be the downhill progression of my graduate life.

It certainly wasn’t an easy ride, but things were more positive than they first seemed.

I’ve faced more job rejections than I can count and have rebuilt my deflated confidence more times than I’d like to admit, but the real turning point for me was the University of Plymouth’s iMayflower Virtual Internships.

iMayflower internships

The scheme partners students and recent graduates like me with local businesses for short-term, paid internships.

Having now completed two internships myself, the skills I have polished and lessons I have learnt, from writing to a specific audience to working to a brief, and the experiences I can now list on my CV, have been invaluable.

My first internship was travel writing about UK staycation locations and attractions to visit across the UK. Being given the creative freedom to find hidden gems to share with readers for their holidays or walks was not only enjoyable but it helped me to see how copywriting is a big part of marketing through the task of writing engaging blogs to grow traffic to a website. This in turn helped the client with their start-up business and led me to go on and complete an online marketing course to build my understanding of copywriting and marketing strategies.

My second internship was with Dartmoor National Park authority. The focus was to help the community and its economy after the pandemic. I was able to autonomously research and create an accessible document that detailed the heritage, environmental, and historical groups within the national park. This was incredibly rewarding to work on as the document is already being used to benefit many local communities.

Experience beyond the internships

The internships have given me the confidence, skills, experience, and knowledge to go beyond my part-time work as a shop assistant and build my own freelance copywriting business, ‘Abi’s Life in Writing’.

‘Abi’s life in Writing’ started and is still predominantly my own personal blog but, with the guidance and encouragement of The Bridge team, it has expanded to become a website detailing my copywriting services and referrals from previous clients.

Working on entirely different and new exciting copywriting and marketing projects gives me the time to develop my skillset further while I continue searching for my ideal full-time job.

A new hope

Engaging with The Bridge team at the University of Plymouth gave me direction and support when I had lost faith in my abilities and future prospects. They reminded me how strong and resilient the class of 2020 are and have encouraged me to celebrate every victory, no matter how small.

I was reminded that getting even just one writing gig in three months was still a huge accomplishment, and that everything I was doing and working on was moving me in the right direction.

The anticlimax of pressing 'submit' on my final assignment, sat at my parents' dining room table while they were out on their daily half hour walk, was not the end of my university experience that I had imagined. However, it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

I’ve come a long way in the last year and grown a lot, not only as a writer but also in myself as a professional adult in the real world. I’m extremely grateful for the support from the University of Plymouth, which provided me with the opportunity to realise this.