UTM offers internship courses, where third- and fourth-year undergraduate students work for 100-200 hours of high quality, unpaid, university-sponsored work. Several departments offer these academic internship courses, including biology, CCIT, economics, and professional writing and communications. The Medium spoke to students currently enrolled in academic internships about their projects and what they do on a daily basis.
The Experiential Education office at UTM has recently widened the opportunities available to students for experiential learning. Through programs focusing on academic internships, research opportunities, and community-engaged service learning, the office “aims to enrich the undergraduate education experience by promoting and nurturing unique opportunities and approaches to learning both within and outside the classroom.”
Melissa Berger, the community outreach coordinator at the EEO, comments, “By promoting strong relationships between community partners, faculty, students, academic studies, career exploration, and community involvement through academic and outreach experiences, we can broaden the scope of what it means to study at UTM.”
PEY: Florence Cao
Florence Cao, a fourth-year student pursuing a double major in computer science and professional writing and communications, started a programming internship at the beginning of May. Her role involves automation development.
“The learning that you do during an internship is incomparable to the learning that you do in school,” says Cao. “I’ve had the opportunity to utilize my knowledge from a variety of courses and expand on that knowledge ten-fold.”
Cao also emphasizes how, with a programming internship, the work you do has an immediate impact on the company’s products.
When asked about opportunities she has had to meet experts and professionals in the field, Cao says, “The company that I work at provides many opportunities for interns to benefit, including a ‘Summer Speaker Series’, where professionals speak about their role in the company. I’ve had the opportunity to hear from people in both a field I’m familiar with and in fields I’m unfamiliar with, [such as business and management].”
“This experience has taught me a lot of technical and transferable skills,” says Cao.
“I’ve reached a point where I can claim to have ‘advanced’ knowledge of Python, a language I’ve been using for three years.” Cao also mentions she has acquired essential research and debugging skills.
“I think that it is essential for undergraduates to get a feel for their field,” says Cao.
Regarding programs such as internships, job shadowing opportunities, or departmental jobs, Cao says, “This ‘foot-in-the-door’ not only gives you first-hand experiences, but it also helps you decide if a particular job is right for you. Luckily for me, I’ve discovered that I love this field and I look forward to continuing [in] the field of computer science.”
BIO400: Muna Abshir
Muna Abshir, a fourth-year student pursuing a molecular biology specialist, is enrolled in the BIO400 course series, which is a part-time, unpaid, 200-hour work placement that allows students to apply biology content and skills.
Abshir started her internship this September at the Credit Valley Hospital pharmacy as a research assistant. Although her role will primarily focus on understanding the computerized drug distribution system, she will also gain insight into the clinical role of a pharmacist within a hospital setting.
Abshir’s internship is at Credit Valley Hospital within the Inpatient Pharmacy department. She is involved in a time-study with the Oncology department, where she is evaluating the efficiency of IV lines being primed by technicians and nurses. So far, Abshir has been helping with data collection until the project is approved by the clinical educator at the hospital.
“It is really interesting to see how work is actually done, because learning the theory in school and seeing how the hospital system works is very different,” says Abshir. “You can see how each person has a different role, but they all work together, and that also shows you all the different things you can do and help with.”
Abshir says her role involves her helping out at the pharmacy and arranging medications according to the inventories, and then sorting them for patient collection after receiving their prescriptions.
She says although the experience has only just begun, she is beginning to see the different avenues her project can take.
“A clinical pharmacist focuses on providing patient care through the use of medication, but other roles involving management and regulation all play a significant role in keeping everything running smoothly.”
Abshir comments that the internship can get very busy, which, although challenging, has been a stimulating learning experience for her. “We don’t get these experiences in the classroom, which is why experiences like these are so important. Especially for the sciences, we don’t normally learn how all our courses can be applied in a real-life setting.”
She also says that “The management skills and communication skills I will be able to gain from this experience will hopefully complement my scientific and technical knowledge, which will increase my likelihood of being employed in a similar setting after graduation.”
Abshir also mentions that while gaining skills for being employed after graduation, the process of understanding what you want to do is also equally important. “These opportunities give you the chance to experience how people work after they complete degrees and courses similar to yourself.
“Although I was fairly decided about going into pharmacy in the future, this experience will hopefully show me the different streams I can go into and [prepare me] for the work I will be doing,” she says.
PEY: Maram Salamony
Maram Salamony, a third-year computer science specialist with a chemistry minor, is currently partaking in a PEY internship with Moneris Solutions. With its headquarters in Toronto, Moneris Solutions is one of the larger Canadian companies responsible for processing and acquiring debit and credit card payments before giving the information to the bank.
The Medium: What do you do on a daily basis?
Maram Salamony: I do two things. The first is [that] I’m currently helping to develop a program that some of our teams use to track integration or our work with customers. Another part of my work is to support people who are trying to use our solutions to develop their own solutions. We get calls and emails from these people, and I respond to them and try to help them solve their problems.
TM: What are your goals for this internship?
MS: One thing I want to learn is how to manage my time better when doing several things. I also want to learn how to better translate things from technical to business terms, because you have to talk to some of the customers in layman terms, as opposed to technical, so it is important to be able to translate between the two to help the customers understand.
TM: How do you hope it will help your career?
MS: I think it will give me an advantage when applying for jobs, because it’s different from going to school, where you only learn mainly in theory. Here, I am building things that are actually being used by people and affect them, and I think that’s definitely something important. Also, here I get to work with a lot of people, which is something you don’t get a lot of practice with in school. This experience is also teaching me how to deal with customers.
TM: Do you have any advice for anyone that wants to apply for an internship?
MS: Definitely mention projects you’ve worked on in your resume, and be ready to talk about them in an interview. They can be course projects—they don’t have to be big and amazing, and they can be little things. Also [in an interview], mention any extracurricular activities you’ve done, [aside] from talking about your projects. They’ll also want to know a lot about that—they don’t belittle them.
Also, the final thing would be to try and think about what you want to do. It might be hard to find a posting that will match that exactly, but just try and have a general idea. If you’re really not sure, try and be open to a lot of things. Personally, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and taking on this job helped me figure out the kind of direction I want to go in.
Psychology: Shefkate Imeri
An internship may include meeting with professionals, clients, and observing screenings.
Shefkate Imeri is a fourth-year student completing a double major in biology for health sciences and psychology. Her internship is based at the Infant and Child Developmental Services of Peel.
The Medium: What does the Infant and Child Developmental Services of Peel do?
Shefkate Imeri: They offer services to children who are aged 0 to 6 years, who have developmental disabilities or are at risk for delays later in life. They assist children who were born premature, have autism, Down Syndrome, or fetal alcohol syndrome. They help with those types of things.
TM: How did you become involved with this internship?
SI: I’m taking a course, PSY442, which is “Practicum in Exceptionality in Human Learning”. All of the students enrolled have placements, and this is the placement I got accepted to.
TM: Did you apply for this position?
SI: First, [students] apply for the course, and once we get accepted into the course, then [the professor] gives you a selection of placements. You apply to your top five placements, and the professor matches each student with a placement. We all submit written requests about why we want our top placement, and the professor makes that decision. Luckily, I got my top pick.
TM: What are you responsible for at your internship?
SI: There are a lot of infant development counsellors, occupational therapists, and many other professions there that I meet with. I have gone on visits to clients, observed their screenings, and things like that.
TM: How many days a week do you attend your internship?
SI: It’s kind of flexible. The commitment is four hours per week, so then it depends on you. Sometimes I go once a week, sometimes I go two or three times a week, depending on my supervisor’s schedule and my schedule. There are a lot of people who work there, and I have to meet with all of them at one point or another, so we schedule in advance. If they’re only free one day, [then] I have to come in and meet with them for even half an hour. Other people in my class usually attend their internship once a week, for four hours.
TM: What do you do on a daily basis at your internship?
SI: I visit the clients. Two weeks back, I was attending a consultation with a little girl who is a year old and has Down Syndrome. The physiotherapist was doing exercises, monitoring her muscle tone, and I was observing how she did that.
Last week, I had a home visit with a child who has microcephaly.
Last Tuesday, I attended a forms clinic. That is basically a session for parents to attend, and we assist them in filling out the forms and applications to receive funding from the government for their children. The money goes towards things [that] the children need, like special diets and special equipment.
TM: How is this internship relevant to your program? To your career goals?
SI: Since this is a psychology course, it’s relevant to my program. I learn about human disability, developmental delays, and all the legislation involved. It is related to my career goals because I want to work in this field and work with children. For example, for occupational therapy, if they work in pediatrics, they work with children who have developmental disabilities.
TM: Would you recommend that other students do an internship? Why?
SI: I definitely would. The things you learn in the course, you can apply in your internship, and vice versa. My internship helps me understand the course better, and it is really good practical experience. Plus, if you want to apply to things like teachers college, or programs that require you to have real working experience in a certain field, I think this is a good way to get that experience.
In the internship, you learn responsibility. The supervisor gets to know you better and can [act as] a reference later on. A lot of the people who work at [The Infant and Child Development Services of Peel] actually took [PSY442] at UTM.