Sharing a love of literature

Alisar's internship has provided her with plenty of transferable skills to help her secure a career she will truly enjoy

Alisar Alkhersan - BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing student

Exploring a passion for poetry and creative writing

Internships are not just a great way to gain new skills and experience – they’re the perfect way for you to share and develop your passions in a professional setting. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do just yet, or you’re not sure how your interests could apply to a career. This is where internships become even more important, by providing you with the chance to see how your interests can be used in the workplace. 
Alisar, in the first year of her BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing degree, chose an internship that allowed her to explore her passion for poetry and creative writing.
“I’m a mature student, so this is slightly different perhaps from other people,” Alisar says, “I’m yet to decide on my future career because I’ve already sort of had one, and I’m leaning towards creative writing as part of my degree.” 

Connecting with Bethany Christian Home

“I consider that books, poetry, writing and reading are undervalued disciplines and that their therapeutic value is yet to be understood,” Alisar reflects. 
Bethany Christian Home in Plymouth offers residential and respite care for older people, including for those who are living with dementia, and it is here that Alisar’s internship saw her running reading, feedback, and poetry workshops alongside another student. 
“At one time, everybody read books, and that was the way it was,” Alisar says. “But as we’ve changed technologically to be reading in a different kind of way, I think maybe some of the value and the treasure of that way of reading has been lost. At the Bethany Christian Home, the residents there are still very much in that sphere. They still want to read books, magazines, and newspapers. That’s what drew me to it.” 
Bethany Christian Home, Plymouth
Bethany Christian Home, image courtesy of the Pilgrims' Friend Society

Overcoming new challenges 

Like every internship, Alisar’s experience presented her with new challenges to adapt to and overcome, with the support of both Bethany Christian Home and the University of Plymouth at every step of the way. 
“The process of engaging with the employer, which was done by Zoom in the first place, was very good and easy,” Alisar remembers. “We were able to ask useful questions so that we could prepare workshop sheets ahead of time and plan the 12 sessions to make the best use of one hour.” 
The interns were also provided with health and safety training to ensure that they felt comfortable and confident going into their internship. 
“We had to consider who we were dealing with and their ability to interact with us,” Alisar explains. “We thought one of the biggest problems would be dementia, and of course it’s there, but actually the biggest problem for the residents was their eyesight and their hearing. That was a much bigger issue, but much more solvable I felt.” 
One of the highlights of Alisar’s internship was getting the chance to share her love of literature, and to encourage and inspire that love in others. 
“You could just write about the everyday and things around you. It doesn't have to be Tennyson, just something that you want to put into words. You start seeing the world differently,” Alisar says. “One of our residents is 97, and she was fantastic – very positive and really wanted to do it. Our big success story is that she’s written two poems subsequently.” 

Making memories

Some of Alisar’s favourite memories from her internship include just being able to laugh and have a good time with the residents. 
“We also planned in a short story from Agatha Christie, a murder mystery which they loved. It’s all set here in the Plymouth area, which was fantastic because it had lots of resonations for them and they enjoyed that. Towards the end I stopped it and I said ‘right, we’ve all got to try and guess who did it.’ Everybody said what they thought, and some of them were right. We discussed the characters and how Agatha Christie had described them really well, throwing red herrings in, which made us all laugh. It’s nice when they laugh as we’re reading along.” 
Poetry workshop at Bethany Christian Home
Poetry workshop

Final thoughts

In the end, Alisar looks back on her time with the residents of Bethany Christian Home fondly. 
“It was deeply satisfying and thoroughly engaging. I think that everybody benefited from the experience,” she says. “I don’t think you could not find it satisfying. It’s very satisfying to have the privilege of choosing for other people – poetry and writing that you might like, and they might not – and you try it with them and see what comes back.” 
An enjoyable experience as well as a useful one, Alisar’s internship has provided her with plenty of transferable skills to help her secure a career she will truly enjoy.
“There's lots of opportunity there for you to make it your own and to work out what you want to do. And that void, which might be difficult at first, actually when you start to fill it is a really useful tool and skill that you will gain.”
If you’re still unsure about whether an internship is for you, Alisar’s advice is to make the most of this opportunity while you have the spare time as a student.
“Don't be scared,” Alisar advises. “Everything comes out in the wash; it all comes right in the end. I can't speak for every internship, but having done this one it really helps with your confidence and it is enjoyable.” 
The University of Plymouth has lots of opportunities available to suit a variety of interests so that you can choose an internship as enjoyable as Alisar’s. 
“They were all wonderful people,” Alisar says, “and learning about them and from them was a real pleasure and privilege. The 97-year-old lady was a force of nature – she was brilliant and I’ll really miss her. That’s something I didn’t expect. They’re just lovely people, with lots to joke about and have fun with.” 
This article was written by Aimee Whittle, BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing student as part of her internship with the School of Society and Culture.