The University of Brighton and Santander Universities’ Employability Scheme offers students and recent graduates a fully funded three-week internship with a small to medium-sized enterprise. Students receive £1,000 for a project-based internship, which gives them invaluable experience of graduate-level work. Nina Vallard, Inclusive Arts Practice MA, tells us about her experience working at Stand Alone, a service set up by Brighton alumna Becca Bland, to support adults that are estranged from their families.
My name is Nina and I am a MA Inclusive Arts Practice (2022) student. This summer I have been interning for a company called Stand Alone, who support estranged people. I have a part-time job in Kent, and after I completed my module this academic year I decided I wanted to use my day off to undertake an internship. I had seen Santander summer internships advertised, but I was very keen in working with a company of my choosing.
I originally applied to University of Brighton when I was an Access to Higher Education student in partner college Greater Brighton Metropolitan College. I found the transition into higher education challenging. I was supported by the Outreach team, and they made such an impact on me, I decided to work in widening participation. For my internship I decided to approach Dr Becca Bland as I had read about her on the Alumni Association blog and I wanted to work with a fellow University of Brighton alumna!
To my surprise I was offered a meeting to discuss an internship and mentioned that, as well as being passionate about education, I was active in student unions. Stand Alone were about to launch their latest Manifestos for Change campaign and asked me if I would like to get involved. I jumped at the chance! Alongside studying I have worked in a handful of colleges and universities, so I was excited about an opportunity to use my knowledge and networks in my internship role. And being the elected Brighton Students’ Union NUS Delegate also helped me connect with other elected officers.
My role is quite creative – which I love. My first task was to look at already existing projects and web content to give my feedback. It did feel weird walking to my living room for my first day in my new job… the pandemic meant all staff were working remotely so I had my induction online. I appreciate having a space to talk about my thoughts on access and participation plans, as this is an area I am very opinionated about! Next month I will be attending various NUS events to promote Manifestos for Change.
Stand Alone also run support groups, and I appreciated speaking to their clinical advisor, Helen Gilbert, who also works with creative writing as a therapeutic tool. My art practice is around reflective writing for wellbeing, so it felt rewarding to meet someone in an area that interests me. Especially as I am working on my final art project at the moment; a collaborative journal with students from a widening participation background.
I am currently halfway through my internship, and I feel incredibly lucky. I have a caring team around me who inspire me to put forward my ideas. I would encourage anyone to apply for the Santander summer internships as it is a great way to learn a new skill, meet people, and get paid. It is also an experience I can draw on elsewhere in my career.
Becca Bland, Founder and CEO of Stand Alone was excited to have Nina on the team. She said: ‘It has been such a pleasure to have Nina on board and it’s great she’s learned so much and has had such a positive experience. We’ve loved working with her and she’s brought such a good energy to the team.’