The University's Frontrunners scheme is a 10 week paid internship which is designed to develop students skills and experience in a professional setting in the University of Essex academic departments and professional services teams.

There are many different roles that students can apply for, but our placement was Communications Frontrunners for Essex's Library and Cultural Services. This meant that we were creating content for the following teams: Special Collections, Academic and Research Services, The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Art Exchange and Lakeside Theatre.

Meet the Frontrunners

Sofia and Mimi sat at opposites sides of a desk, both resting laptops on the shared table. Both are looking towards the camera and smiling.

Mimi: Hey! My name is Mimi and I'm an undergraduate student studying BA English with Media Communication. I came all the way from Ipoh, Malaysia. I stumbled upon this role and it immediately caught my interest as I have yet to gain experience in working, so I eagerly pursued this role. Applying for this position was a natural step forward, as it aligns perfectly with my coursework, thus giving me a chance to gain skills that I can use for my coursework and an opportunity to use my knowledge from my course in a working setting.

Sofi: Heyo! I’m Sofi, an international student from Mexico. I'm in the final year of my BA Art History and Modern Languages. Having no professional work experience and being a final year student is a scary combination, that’s why I decided to do something about it and change my situation. I applied to this role because after university I want to work in something related to art, culture, and marketing, which are exactly the areas covered in this internship. When I applied for the job I was nervous but I also believed there was so much for me to gain from this experience, and I was right. I loved every second of it as well as working alongside Mimi and my manager Elena.

What were we expecting from our period as Frontrunners?

Mimi: I expected to gain skills and experience a working environment.

Sofi: I was expecting to give me a sense of direction in my professional career and to equip me with tools and skills for my future. It was a new environment for me, a new way of working and of interacting with other people.

What did we do during the 10 weeks?

Mimi and Sofi: Each week we planned a concept, filmed videos, wrote scripts and edited clip to produce unique content for the Library and Cultural Services using our own creative approach. The videos are entirely our own work, as we directed, filmed, and edited them ourselves. We insert our personal narrative and experiences in each department we collaborated with.

What did we find most surprising or interesting about the role?

Mimi: I found it surprising that this role is very stress-free and fun. It wasn’t overwhelming or high pressure, I had time to come up with my ideas and do my videos at my own pace. Our manager Elena made sure we had clear boundaries with our working time and our life, creating emphasis on a balanced work ethic made our working environment so healthy and supportive, I enjoyed it so much.

Sofi: The creative freedom and trust our manager Elena gave us. I really enjoyed that my co-workers trusted my vision and ideas. This role made me explore new areas of my creativity and gave me space to understand and truly dive into my creative process.

What did we find challenging?

Mimi: I used to find it challenging to communicate with people who were not my peers. At first, I was a bit scared to speak up and share my opinion, and at the same time, I was worried that I wasn't contributing enough. But after a while, I gained the confidence to express myself and even engage with colleagues from different areas.

Sofi: At the beginning I was very self-conscious of my lack of video filming and editing skills. I felt that I would fall behind on my weekly tasks; overthinking and undermining my potential to learn were the main things I had to overcome. Practice and helpful advice from my peers helped me. And eventually as I carried on doing my job I improved and became more confident.

What did we discover about ourselves during the internship?

Mimi: I have recently discovered my passion for filming and editing videos, despite never having worked with professional tools before. After spending weeks editing, I found myself becoming increasingly interested in pursuing a career in video editing. This experience has given me clarity regarding my career choices, and I am now considering continuing down this path after completing my studies. Additionally, I have discovered a keen interest in theatre, particularly behind the scenes. I would love to work as an engagement person for a theatre.

Sofi: I discovered so much about how I carry myself. I realised I am confident in sharing my ideas and concerns in a clear respectful way. I also discovered I can take constructive criticism and feedback in an objective way and take advantage of that into improving myself rather than discouraging me. I know from now on these aspects will accompany me in each aspect of my life.

And finally

Being part of the Library and Cultural Services team was such an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to learn new skills, to overcome struggles, to develop our ideas, to explore our creativity, and to experience a workplace environment have made us feel more confident in ourselves and our potential, and definitely less intimidated for life after university.

We are so glad we stepped out of our comfort zone and applied for this role. The Frontrunners scheme is an incredible route to start a career path, so we urge students to take advantage of these opportunities!