This internship has been one of the best summers of my life. I was put into a real team, and was trusted to complete real work, almost from the very start of the placement. I have done several internships before, but never one like this where the work I am doing actually counts for something and benefits the company. Furthermore, being in America there were so many things to see and do - the evenings and weekends felt like being on holiday!
Despite being the youngest and least experienced person on the team (obviously!), I was very quickly given tasks from the team's backlog to work on. Upon completing tasks, I would receive praise along the lines of that I had done a better job than some of the full-time contractors. Although I was only there for the Summer, I was included in team outings and lunches, and really felt like the team were making an effort to get to know me.
Whilst my manager was supportive, he was also very busy, and could be hard to track down even if we had a meeting scheduled at that time. For day-to-day problems, my mentor (another member of the team) was invaluable. His desk was near to mine, and he encouraged me to reach out whenever I wasn't sure about something or wanted some help.
For the majority of the time, I was given plenty of tasks to do which kept me busy. There was sometimes a break between when I finished the task, and being assigned the next one, which could leave me with a few quiet days. However, this spare time could generally be filled with intern events or training courses.
I was assigned real tasks to do off of the team's backlog. This meant that I had to liaise with other members of the team to make sure our different parts of the task fitted together, as well as maintaining consistency across the application we were designing. If I had not been there completing those tasks, it would have had an impact on the team and they would have been slower to deliver - that is a lot of responsibility for an intern!
The technical skills I learnt over the Summer were very specific, so may not come up in the remainder of my degree, however I am certain they will be useful in my future career should I pursue this area of technology. The softer skills such as communicating with non-technical business analysts, attending meetings, and summarising problems in order to get help, will always be helpful wherever I go from here, throughout my degree and beyond.
The office was structured into cubicles with high walls between them. This meant that you could not see anybody else around you, unless they stood up. At times this could feel quite isolating, but it also meant there were few distractions and I could be quite productive. At lunchtime everybody would head down to the canteen, and here there was a much more lively atmosphere and a chance to interact with others more freely.
The first week in the UK was a little haphazard, however we were mostly just expected to shadow a team member and get on with online induction training. The time in America was much better organised, since they have a dedicated intern programme and many more interns to manage. The final week back in the UK was again quite poorly organised (they seemed surprised when we turned up!) and we were allowed to go home after only a few days. But overall, the organisation of the internship was acceptable.
We had to do the induction training which all new starters at the company complete. However, beyond that, we were not permitted to take part in the training courses offered to full time employees. Within my team, I was given access to some online training courses, however these came from my manager not the company itself. That being said, I did not really feel that there was any additional formal training which would have benefitted me over such a short time period.
All of the UK interns were offered a job at the end of the placement. To the best of my knowledge, most if not all of us have accepted. We have been given a higher than average starting salary, and there seems to be many opportunities to rise up and progress within the company over the next few years.
All of the interns lived together in apartment complexes. As 4 UK interns among a group of 60 or 70 US interns, the 4 of us bonded very well and spent every weekend together going out and exploring Chicago. We also became friendly with many of the US interns, who would take us to see various sights or attractions and recommend things we should do or see.
The cost of accomodation was covered by the company, however the nearby supermarket was quite expensive. Despite this, the office contained a subsidised canteen, so there was not much need to buy loads of food. The train ticket into central Chicago was $10 for a weekend ticket, which was a bargain. Discover sponsor many of the museums and attractions in the city, so by showing your employee pass you can get in for free or at a reduced rate.
The apartments where we were living were out in the suburbs, so there was not really much around. However, central Chicago was only 40 minutes away on the train. There would also be spontaneous meet-ups of interns in communal areas such as by the swimming pool or in the reception building, or gatherings in people's rooms.
I think interns were allowed to join company sports teams, but I personally did not get involved with that. As part of the intern programme we had all sorts of activities such as bowling + laser tag, a boat trip, volunteer day, and meals out. All of these activities allowed us to bond with other interns, and the intern co-ordinators.