Welcome to another Student Employability Guest Blog! Read below about Gervan’s experience of doing a placement at PrEPster (an organisation of HIV prevention activists) and his top tips. If you, like Gervan, want to share your employability experiences in a blog, drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with your idea and you could shine on the official careers blog, too. But for now, sit back, relax and enjoy reading the piece below.
My name is Gervan and I am an MSc Health Psychology student from Trinidad and Tobago. A few weeks ago, I got an email from the Careers team saying that I had won the LAS Placement Student of the Year (Short-term) Award. More recently, the team asked me if I could write a short post about my experiences of doing a work placement and since I don’t usually win things, I thought I could use the opportunity to reflect.
Why Health Psychology at Westminster?
I always knew I wanted to do some kind of internship or work experience as a postgraduate student. In fact, it was one of the reasons that led to me decide on the Health Psychology course at Westminster. I think a lot of people go into psychology as an undergraduate with the intention of becoming a counsellor or working with people one-on-one but, the reality is, psychology is a science and science is built on research. Don’t get me wrong, I love the research process, but I never quite got the opportunity to apply what I learned and see it in action. Because of this I was adamant in choosing a course that would give me practical experience alongside improving my research abilities.
How did I find and prepare for my placement?
When it came to finding and preparing for the placement, the hardest part was the paperwork. And even then, it wasn’t hard. Just a lot of papers to fill. I have always had a strong interest in sexual and reproductive health, so my research supervisor was able to guide me to PrEPster, an organisation of HIV prevention activists. Once I had reached out and explained the purpose of the placement, they invited me to a meeting to discuss it in a bit more detail and make sure both parties were on the same page.
💡 To prepare, I spent some time on their website browsing through their projects (they were involved in a really great documentary about pre-exposure prophylaxis and HIV in London) and making sure their work was something I could enjoy doing. During the meeting, we discussed both parties’ expectations and found a middle ground that everyone was happy with. The entire process took about two months and once it was over, it was just a matter of getting the paperwork done and getting started.
Highlights from my placement
I worked with PrEPster from February to April 2019 and throughout the entire ten weeks I worked on a lot of projects. During my first session, they presented me with a list of projects that were ongoing or coming up and gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to work on and curate the experience to my needs. And I think that was such a crucial part that not only allowed me to perform well but also to enjoy my time at PrEPster. I did research, developed tools for health outreach workers to use out in the field, and even went out and did my own outreach work. And outreach, especially around a sensitive topic like sexual health, is not easy but the relief you see on people’s faces after the experience makes it all worth it. It’s like they were holding their breath the entire time until that moment when they were finally able to let it out.
My advice to other students, interested in doing a placement
If I had to give advice for any students considering a work experience or placement it would be this: 💡 put some work into it. Do some research and don’t jump at the most easily available options. 💡 While there’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re easy available because they’re generic and cater to a wide range of people. But you’re not generic. So do your research, send emails, and meet people for coffee. 💡 If there’s someone in the field whose work you admire, reach out. If you have a lecturer whose work you’re interested in, ask them for recommendations of places that you can contact. 💡 Ultimately, I highly recommend taking part in a work experience if you can – especially for psychology students. You might not like statistics and research, but you might not like the alternative more. And it’s best to figure that out sooner rather than later.
A big THANK YOU to Gervan for sharing his experiences with us! If you’re feeling inspired to do any type of work placement yourself, please search for placement opportunities on Engage and / or contact your Placements Team.
And remember that the Careers Team is here to help you with succeeding in your employability journey! You can find our contact details below: