April 16, 2021, by abrierley
My placement at Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP)
By Caitlin Lyng (Geography; Environmental Leadership & Management MSc)
At the end of my first semester on the Environmental Leadership and Management MSc course, I decided to apply for a placement with the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP) and began my 10-week role as a research intern in February 2021. MEMRAP is campaigning for the reinstatement of the former Peaks and Dales Railway line, which will better connect isolated communities across the Peak District National Park and help Derbyshire reduce its carbon emissions. As with any major project, concerns were raised regarding the environmental impact of railway reinstatement on protected sites within the Peak District National Park. Therefore, my role was to develop a report that would outline how railway reinstatement provides a unique opportunity to enhance the natural environment, and propose the ways in which this could be done.
As with any placement, particularly those that are remote, the thought of working independently can be daunting. This highlights the importance of developing a good relationship with your placement host, in order to put yourself at ease and ensure that you are comfortable asking any questions. Throughout my placement, I was supported by my supervisor, Pete, who guided me through the process of producing my first ever formal report. It was also a delight to see how involved MEMRAP’s CEO, Stephen, was in my work, and both made me feel extremely welcome.
The placement application process is fairly straightforward. Firstly, there is submitting your CV and a cover letter, the latter of which should be tailored specifically to the requirements of the placement host and role. Next comes the interview. Having the interview over Zoom/Teams can make it slightly less intimidating, but whether it is online or face-to-face, ensure you have researched the company and prepped answers to the typical questions that are often asked in an interview, such as why you are a good fit for the role and what made you apply. Finally, asking questions at the end of the interview will ensure you come across as enthusiastic and engaged.
I thoroughly enjoyed this placement as it broadened my horizons and refreshed my old skills. I developed an in-depth understanding of the methods for enhancing England’s habitats and the theory behind this, I learnt to appreciate the power-play that comes with large-scale developments, and I also greatly improved my GIS skills through hours of map making. However, there were still challenges with the placement, the biggest of which was time management. Although I was only expected to dedicate one day a week to the placement, I found myself spending every free moment I had creating the report. Once I recognised that I was starting to neglect university work, I made a conscious effort to go back to spending just one day a week on placement work. I found it important to remind myself that placements are designed to be done in conjunction with university studies and there is no need to feel overwhelmed at the thought of balancing both. This is a message I would reiterate to anyone feeling the same sort of apprehension about juggling a placement and university studies; it is definitely possible and although stressful at times, the invaluable experience you gain from the placement makes it worthwhile.
Overall, taking part in this placement has prepped me for entering the ‘real world’ of work. For those considering a placement, I would say do not hesitate to apply even if you have limited experience on your CV. I had no previous work experience, but many placements on the Faculty of Social Sciences placements programme are not looking for an endless amount of past experience. This brings me on to my second tip, which is to be confident. Selling yourself and conveying your passion and interest in the placement is of utmost importance in the interview stage, especially if you have limited experience, as this will be the deciding factor in whether you are successful with your application. Good luck with your future placement!
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