Interning during a pandemic

Posted by cc576 at Dec 30, 2020 11:00 PM |
An interview with Leicester student, Laura Siekapen

Finding an internship over the course of the past year has been a journey many students may have felt discouraged about. From interactions and experiences being gained at a distance, to many not feeling like they are getting the most out of ‘what could have been’. But Laura Siekapen, a second year French and English Literature student at the University of Leicester, having interned in Publishing, gave us the low-down on her internship, what she has learnt and the opportunities she has gained as a result.

So, Laura, it's lovely to e-meet you! Can you tell us about yourself?

‘Pleasure to meet you too Carla and thank you for this opportunity. So, my name is Laura Siekapen and I'm in 2nd year studying French and English Literature at the University of Leicester, as well as Spanish as an extra-curricular with Languages at Leicester. I am from Cameroon and am a native French speaker. I'm also totally blind: as I was born with an eye condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), which meant I lost my sight at the age of 7 and was left with light perception. This means I am a competent braillist and screen reader user, particularly when it comes to my studies. Braille is practically 2nd nature to me now, especially given that I'm quite an avid reader, which is why English Literature is such a huge passion of mine!’

Talk us through a bit about your experiences so far and what sparked your interest in interning at a publishing company.

‘So as part of my English Literature program, I chose an optional module titled Diversifying the Publishing Industry, which required students to enroll on an E-placement with a publishing company, in order to gain hands-on experience in the industry alongside the academic approach to publishing. I found the internship very informative and useful in that it gave me an idea of the workings of the publishing industry and helped me decide if it is in fact a sector I would consider working in later on. As I previously mentioned, I do enjoy reading and therefore wanted to gain a deeper knowledge of books, through the perspective of a publisher, thereby understanding the whole process from production, research, editing/proofreading, marketing to finally getting a book on the shelves. I was also interested in the translational aspect of publishing, given the languages side of my degree, which also inevitably led to a multicultural dimension: as this module is ultimately about diversifying literature in Britain, and this is something I felt I could identify with, given my African background.’

How did you go about finding and applying for this internship?

‘Easy: the module title spoke to me instantly and after reading the specification, I realised it offered an internship which, isn't always the easiest thing to access. So I signed up! Interesting fact however: this module is normally not available to Modern Languages students, which I found extremely ironic, given the aims to diversify literature. So I posed this argument to the Module Convenor, who agreed with me completely and in the end, we succeeded in revolutionising the module! So here I am: having completed the internship! A huge thank you to Lucy Evans for helping to make this a reality and hopefully this opens more doors to other Modern Languages students interested in the module.’

I understand that you've recently written a review about a collection of poems. Tell us more about that.

‘Yes, so as part of my E-placement, I read a poetry anthology titled 'Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New World' by Ambrose Musiyiwa, which was written in response to the tragedies of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed as a result. As you can probably tell from my academic review here, I found it to be a very resonant read, as I believe there is something we can all identify with in this anthology, given the diverse topics the poems evoke: one being the pandemic, which evidently deserved a mention. The poems were all written in different styles, which kept the anthology interesting as there was rarely any repetition. Most of the writers wrote in free verse, as a means of freely expressing their thoughts and feelings on the subjects without being confined to literary/poetic conventions. I found this very commendable and powerful.’

Regarding the module in your English Literature course, what does diversifying the publishing industry mean to you?

‘To me: diversifying publishing means incorporating voices of various cultures in works of art, whether it be Literature etc, thus leading to a process of decolonisation. To decolonise literature is to transform colonial narratives into those of the home land, therefore reflecting personal, raw experiences rather than those dominated by white supremacy. Diversity also needs to be genuine, not forced, in order to be truly successful. Finally, that being said, diversity should also not be limited to multiculturalism as it is can take various forms: ethnicity, sexuality, disability, the list is endless, and I feel like this should be recognised more, especially in literature.’

Do you have any tips for students looking for/just starting an internship?

‘I would recommend choosing a placement you're actually interested in, and not just applying to embellish the CV, as it can get challenging at times, so you need to make sure you're enjoying it. For those who are just starting: please don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to, even if the answers seem obvious. All questions are valid. Also remember that you may be the one gaining experience, but the company is also benefitting from your work, so you have a right to express any doubts you may have without hesitation. Finally, just enjoy and make the most of it!’

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