In at the deep end – work experience with OPAL

By Kailin Summers
Student at Lycee Français Charles de Gaulle

Having spent critical time in my childhood in the tropics I gained a fair amount of exposure to the outdoors. A diving course opened my eyes to the world beneath the ocean – breathtaking. These experiences were probably my main inspiration to look for a work experience placement in environmental studies; that and the importance attributed to it at school in various subjects.

It so happened that a weekend or so before the deadline to arrange a placement, I attended a science festival at Imperial College and met a professor in conservation science who introduced me to OPAL...

Student Kailin taking part in the OPAL Tree Health SurveyI have spent two weeks working alongside people who believe that they can make a difference in this world. My very first work placement! Never would I have thought that an office space could have such a friendly atmosphere. It was wonderful to see how well a team could get along, and it seems that each member is very passionate about what they do (my mum’s words put into practice “do what you enjoy”).

I was very stimulated throughout the time I was in the office, thanks to a very well organised and busy schedule and not to forget the numerous cups of coffee, and maple syrup cookies provided (thank you Laura for the latter!). I found that I was reluctant to leave at the end of the day, and even more so when it was time to say goodbye.

During my time with OPAL I was thrown in at the deep end, for example when I was asked to shadow staff managing a stand at the Education for Sustainable Development Conference. I was comfortably content with distributing surveys, but networking, as in actually conversing with people (that knew far more than I did and had far more experience than myself), the very thought was daunting.

It turns out that the experience was quite enjoyable, as few delegates had heard of the project, and many were keen to hear what I had to say. Thankfully I had read an OPAL report on the train on the way, and was able to provide a description of OPAL’s objectives. I have to say that I felt quite proud of myself afterwards, and my time there definitely boosted my self esteem.

The rest of the time was filled with diverse administrative and communication tasks. I took over the twitter channel for a couple days (it felt good to socialise a bit, something far too infrequent in my life); got a look into program management (which, although interesting, is not something that I would want to pursue); and carried out one of OPAL’s national surveys and learnt some of the tricks of the trade in analysing the state of the environment.

Many thanks to Poppy and the rest of the OPAL team for guiding me on this fantastic, new experience and encouraging me to try out new things. Thank you to the PHD students and professors who have shared their years of research with me, it has been an experience that I will not forget.

Enjoyed this? Read our other work experience blog: Tree surveys and twitter takeovers – work experience with OPAL