26 May An Opportunity to Embark on a Sustainability Internship Experience in the UK
Hi readers! My name is Erin MacKay, I’m a Canadian business student at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, and I recently finished my sustainability internship at Sweets in the City as a Sustainable Research Analyst.
My educational background consists so far of this program with George Brown College and before that, high school. I am also currently a part of the Sustainability Squad as an executive member in this extracurricular club within the college. Looking forward is far more interesting as I am planning on attending Seneca college for two semesters starting in the Fall of 2021 as a transfer program which will get me a Bachelor of Commerce: International Business Management.
After that I will choose to pursue a Masters in Sustainability or perhaps take a certificate at Ryerson University for Lean Six Sigma and Sustainable Industry Enterprise. As a mature student, I cannot discount the wealth of information I gained from working in the service industry (serving and bartending) for many years.
What has been your biggest challenge while studying?
My biggest challenge while studying has either been not believing enough in myself or trying to get used to not being in the classroom and learning online full-time. Only a little while ago I remember being terrified that I would not do well in college. Now I am in the running to graduate with honours.
The pandemic has been very hard on me as an extrovert and I very much miss being in the classroom and building solid connections with teachers and fellow students. However, I have made do and have still found ways to network/connect on the online world.
What internship program did you embarked on and why?
I participated in the remote internship program as we are currently going through a pandemic. With that being said, I needed to find a second internship to satisfy my graduation requirements with George Brown College. Finding a job of any kind is difficult during this time and I was beginning to lose hope. Thankfully, a friend told me about this pilot project that the college was offering this semester together with Absolute Internship and it sounded perfect for me! I actually almost missed the deadline!
I initially requested something in Spain as I wanted to practice my limited Spanish, but AI asked me many questions about what I was interested in and found me a good fit in the United Kingdom! I am so happy that I chose a sustainability internship with a strong Environmental focus. I considered changing to Green Technology as one of AI’s options, but in the end, it seems this was meant to be! My boss Sarah and coworker Naomi have been so friendly, and I have helped them with Research and Business Development, Marketing and Sustainability initiatives.
Finding Sweet in the City’s immediate competitors, helping the company to become more green and learning about the different tastes that each country has when it comes to sweets has been most rewarding.
What happened after you finished your international sustainability internship?
My crystal ball tells me I added this amazing opportunity to my resume that highlighted my ability to adapt, work remotely and develop strong relationships with people overseas. In addition, I stayed in touch with the amazing Absolute Internship team and went eventually on a trip with Aiste, Operations Coordinator at AI, to Portugal!
This internship has helped me reach my goals as I have been tested so much in my abilities to time manage as well as self-teach. Having no formal Sustainability education as of yet, I pushed myself to do extensive research on more environmentally-friendly products and practices that my supervisor could incorporate into her business. At one point, my supervisor requested I create a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Charter for her small organization, and I had to figure out how to do that. I researched what other companies have done and applied that to what Sweets in the City stands for and where they hope to be in the near future.
What would you say to students considering this experience?
The videos from the Absolute Academy I was provided with as part of the program gave me great insight to how business is conducted in different parts of the world and the different mannerisms that different businesspeople may be accustomed to. Highly recommend checking all those online resources to make the most of your international experience!
I would advise future students to definitely give this a shot! I think this was a great experience and the employees at AI are always willing to lend a hand if anything is amiss. I was lucky to have amazing people to work with at my sustainability internship placement but if it wasn’t a good fit, I’m sure AI would have found me something that was more beneficial for me and the employer.
I would also give the advice to make sure to get out and take short walks for breaks. It is important to step away from the work every once in a while for mental health and to come back having a fresh perspective!
On June 8, I will be a guest speaker on the Absolute Internship’s Evolve 2021 Webinar Series, talking about my own experience as a remote intern and different strategies for your mental health when interning remotely.
I hope to see you all there!