Reflecting on my internship with hEDStogether.

It’s a wrap! My 3 month internship at hEDStogether has gone by in a flash, and I’m so sad it’s come to an end. You can already see some of my work live on the website. We’ve added Ben, Lauren, Helen, and Gordon as members of our team, and we’ve also shared Lauren’s and Helen’s projects here and here. There is a lot more to come including an infomercial, so keep an eye out! Although you can’t see most of what I’ve done just yet, I think this is a great opportunity to share what I did and what I’ve learned.

The biggest skill I’ve developed is my management skills. I’ve had to coordinate a huge number of projects at the same time, and I’ve never received so many emails in my life! Keeping track of who said what, and who gave permission for what was almost overwhelming. I learned to put everything in folders and made sure to recheck everything on a regular basis. I honestly think this played a crucial role in getting the infomercial organised and filmed in light of all the changes that have happened over this year. Fortunately, because of my internship, I was able to dedicate the time and effort needed to organise its filming in socially distanced conditions! I’ve also liased with two of the EDS charities, Ehlers-Danlos Support UK (EDS UK) and Hypermobility Syndromes Association (HMSA) to raise further awareness of our research and its outputs to the public. I’ve developed so many skills, including communication, organisation and management skills, and these are going to be so valuable as I go forwards with my PhD and research career.

The most difficult aspect of this internship for me was using social media. I have never been an avid user, and doing so gives me a lot of anxiety. So when Gemma suggested I use it to develop my networking and research communication skills, I genuinely tried to come out of my shell, but it was something I found extremely uncomfortable. Every tweet would take up so much of my time, and it just didn’t feel sustainable to continue anymore. For someone who is a bit of a perfectionist, I think this internship has taught me that it’s OK to not be good at everything, and that knowing your weaknesses can also be a strength in itself.

Having said that, I do have my strengths. I always give complete and total dedication into the work that I do, and hEDStogether really needed someone like me at this time! The website is still in its relatively early stages, and mostly run on a voluntary basis. To get the platform up to speed, it really needed someone to put together and collate all the current and previous research done by the team, and I don’t think hEDStogether could have found anyone with more dedication and enthusiasm! I can honestly say that I gave it my all, and I’m super proud that most of the backlog of work that hEDStogether needed doing has been done, and I can’t wait for you to see it all.

I have also genuinely enjoyed this internship. The best thing was getting to use co-creative methods in practice (blogs about this coming soon!). Until now, all my academic work has been strictly independent, but during this internship, I was taking a more collaborative approach. I had the opportunity to listen and incorporate other people’s perspectives, and improve my work from the feedback given. It was such a pleasure to discover and collaborate with other inspiring people, and I’m really going to miss this part of my internship.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank my internship supervisor Dr Gemma Pearce, not just for this placement, but for everything she has done for me. Whilst studying for my Master’s degree, I did a small literature-based research project into hEDS/HSD completely independently. Though Gemma was from a different department and not officially assigned to this project, she read my work, saw that it was worth something, and then made sure it was seen by the right people. It was because of her (and also Dr Emma Reinhold) that my work is now being developed and planned for publication (details coming soon!). I was able to put this on my CV, demonstrate that I could synthesise and conduct impactful research, which helped secure my PhD position and funding for EDS research. This only happened because of Gemma’s actions, and I can honestly say that no academic has ever gone above and beyond for me in this way and to this extent, and also on a completely voluntary basis. So to have the opportunity to do my internship with her and have her supervise my PhD for 3 months was not just a genuine pleasure. It was a privilege, because no one else would have made sure this internship also benefitted me like she has done.

Gemma, I have really enjoyed working with you, and though our respective EDS research fields are quite different, I hope we have many more opportunities to work together. Though I am no longer your intern, you can always count on me to support both you and hEDStogether. Thank you for supporting my professional work, my personal development, and for also caring about my personal wellbeing. You are not just my academic supervisor, you are also my role model and my friend. Thank you for everything. X

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