7 Things I’ve Learned from My College Internship

Now that I’ve been working in the lab for about a year, I’m excited to share this post about the things I’ve learned since then. This is my first college internship/professional experience in the field. Overall, it’s been a great opportunity that I’m very thankful for.

Things I Learned from my College Internship

I started working in the lab in the summer of last year through my school’s summer research college internship program. The program had us work full time for 10 weeks. Once a week, we would have professional development seminars, which I enjoyed. At the end of the 10 weeks, we had to present a poster on the research we had done. Thankfully my presentation went well! Especially considering that I went to sleep super late the night before because I was watching the Vamps in concert. I started off completely confused and not sure about what we were doing.

Now that I’ve been in a lab for a while and I’ve taken cell biology and genetics classes, I understand what we’re doing. Now, I even have my own little portion of the project that I’m very excited about. I’ve gotten to know the people in the lab better. I plan to continue working in this lab, in my little part of the experiment, until I graduate because I am happy there.

Without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned so far during my college internship. Hopefully, you can apply these to your professional life, too.

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You don’t have to be bffs with your co-workers

When I first joined the lab, I thought I was going to become close friends with my co-workers, since we would be spending a lot of time together. I quickly realized that I was wrong. The girl who happened to be working on the same project as me had a totally different outlook on life than I do. She was a nice person and we had a good professional relationship. For example, while we were waiting for a sample to cool, we would talk about our pets. We went to Starbucks together once during a break. We would say hi if we saw each other outside of the lab. But our relationship never went further than that. I realized that that’s normal and okay…

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Especially when you’re a young Christian, you’re going to find people who have a very different outlook than you do. Because of that, there is a certain part of you that they will never understand, and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to be your bff. I decided that it was okay. I don’t need to be close friends with them because I have other close friends who do share my values and who do know the totally authentic, raw Aly. (But on the other hand, if you happen to have great co-workers and you’re bffs with them, that’s awesome!)

People will realize that you’re different

As I said before, when you’re a young Christian in college, you’re going to find people who have different views on life than you do. Thankfully, most of the people I’ve encountered respect my views (although I’ve gotten a comment or two because I don’t drink, party, or curse). This goes both ways. You can’t be shoving Jesus down their throats, because that’s NEVER what Jesus intends. You don’t want to misrepresent the faith. You are allowed to defend yourself, but never disrespect someone else’s views. Don’t name call or taunt. If you are respectful, chances are that they will at least respect you. You must learn to deal with these differences gracefully.

Handle correction with maturity

Especially toward the beginning, there will be times that you will make a mistake in your job. It happens to everyone. My boss has had to correct me a couple of times. I am so lucky that I have a great boss who corrected me gently. Still, it hurts. Focus on trying to make yourself a better professional. I focused on practically applying the advice my boss had given me and how I was going to change for the better. When you focus on “how can I be better?” rather than “I can’t believe they called me out for that!” it softens the blow. You will impress your boss when you apply the instructions they gave you.

Be communicative

A little communication goes a long way. If you’re going to be a few minutes late, call to let them know. If you don’t know how to solve a problem, ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to repeatedly remind your boss of something. Chances are that they have a lot on their mind, and the reminders might be helpful to them. When you work in a lab, remember that your boss is on your team. Your success is their success, so it’s in their best interest to make sure that you succeed.

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Don’t let go of good opportunities

I knew a girl who was getting paid to work in a lab, and after half a year she just stopped showing up to the lab without warning of the instructor. This girl threw away a valuable opportunity and ruined her reputation with this professor. (You think he’ll write her a recommendation letter now?) Yes, work is tiring and tedious, especially if you work in a lab and a lot of your labor is repetitive. Still, keep in mind that you are gaining valuable experience that will help you land your dream job.

Take notes on everything your boss says

Sometimes, your boss will want you to do something really technical and specific (is that just in science or does that apply to everyone?). For the first semester that I was in the lab, I had to carry around a notebook and write down everything because I didn’t understand half of what was going on. After reading and digesting the information, and with a little bit more experience, I finally understood.

Be accountable and responsible

Let your boss know what you’ve done. Be responsible. Simple, common courtesy things like cleaning up your work station, asking if they need any additional help, and coming in/leaving on time go a long way.

No matter your field, being a college student trainee can be challenging. But with a little experience and help, and work on your and your boss’s part, it can be a very rewarding learning experience.

What have you learned by working in your job? What is the student training for your career like?


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