Internships, my story and advices
Some of you may already know about the topic I’m going to write about here, some may hear it for the first time – don’t panic, this is the guide to getting the internship of your dreams … not really, but I’ll try.
Apart from being a nice addition to your LinkedIn profile, an internship is a practice you can do at a research institution, firm, organization, startup, etc. of your choice during the summer (it very strictly cannot overlap with any school dates). Its length varies from a few weeks to the maximum of around two months, depending on how much of a life you want to have from mid-June to September. It is not mandatory, you won’t get any distinction for doing and it won’t be written on your diploma. However, it will provide you some of the first work experiences, learning a lot of new things that you would not normally learn at Polytechnique and the idea of how your future career may look like, so I advise you to at least think about it.
You’re probably wondering when and how to look for an internship. I know people who already found what they wanted in December, but also some that did it in May. Don’t stress too much about it but start early enough so that you don’t have to do it while studying for exams. Personally, I started thinking about it and doing some research around Christmas and got accepted by the end of February. There’s not a strict proper way to search for an internship, you should try every source you can: a lot of internet research, LinkedIn, spamming professors, friend of a friend, … really anything you can try – try it. There are different procedures of how to apply, some firms do interviews and for some is just enough to send your CV and a motivational letter. With that being said, make sure you have your CV prepared and properly boosted. Once you get accepted, you’ll have to go to a somewhat painful procedure that’s needed to get it validated by admin, but you will have a not-so-informative presentation about that in February.
After writing about the basics, I thought I might mention my own experience. As a physics major, I did my three weeks’ internship at Synchrotron SOLEIL working on electrospray ionization spectroscopy of some biomolecules. It was a lot of nodding to things I didn’t initially understand, panicking about doing something wrong and disappointing my mentor and redoing reports four times because I can’t multiply two numbers. On the other hand, it was a lot of learning about what are ion and electron optics and how to simulate it, how to read data from the detector and give it actual physical meaning, what are ionization cross sections, etc. It really gave me a nice look into what a job of an experimental physicist is and made me realize I am probably more of a theoretical one (as I was too happy to finally derive some equations near the end of the internship…).
As a final advice, don’t take an internship just for the sake of having one and don’t feel pressure if you simply don’t feel ready, you can always take it after the second year. Also, make sure you’re well rested and relaxed before starting.
I hope this was helpful and if you need any other help/advice, don’t hesitate to contact me. I wish you nice rest of the summer and can’t wait to meet you guys in September! 😊