Vincent Bruggeman, vocal student at the Guildhall School, and founder of Lyribox, an online resource for singers, interviews two students from different disciplines about the value of internships whilst studying. Please add your comments in the “Leave a Reply” box below.
What is the most radical step you would like to take now in shaping a curriculum?
Internships for conservatoire students?
I want to focus on positive outcomes that can result from introducing internships to a curriculum. What I mean by an internship here is:
An “internship” is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called “interns”, to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time. Interns are usually undergraduates or students, and most internships last for any length of time between one week and 12 months. Internships (also called “placements”, “work placements” or “industrial placements”) may be part-time or full-time. They are usually part-time if offered during a university semester and full-time if offered during the summer, winter or Easter holidays, when they typically last 4-12 weeks. Placements are usually full-time, and take place irrespective of term time or holiday time.[i]
To give some insights on this topic I have interviewed two postgraduate students, and would like to express my gratitude to both of them.
What is your ‘university’ background?
Holly : I have been at Guildhall for six years now. I did my undergraduate degree here for four years and I am now in my second year of the part-time master, so, I am technically still in my first year of the masters but in my second year. I am hoping to go onto the Master performance course, which is a one-year full time course.
Thomas : This is my fifth year now at the Rouen Business School, but I did a gap year between my undergraduate and my postgraduate degree. The undergraduate is three years long and the postgraduate is two years long.
During your studies how many months of the year were/are you in university?
Holly : My entire course at the Guildhall takes place within the buildings of the school. Although an Erasmus year in a different conservatoire/country is possible if you desire so. I personally chose not to do one.
Thomas : In my business school the course is divided into three parts. Three years are within the school. Then we have to be trained for 6 months in a university partnership and finally one year and six months have to be done in internships. It follows this scheme:
First year – at school
Second year – at school
Third year – 6 months internships and 6 month at school
First year – 6 month in a different university / 6 month internships
Second year – 6 month internships / 6 month at school
Moreover, the school strongly recommends that we do a gap year of internships between the undergraduate and the postgraduate courses.
Have you done any internship during your studies?
Holly: Internships are not a formal part of our studies, so they have to be done outside the school term. In my second year undergraduate course, I applied to the British Youth Opera summer chorus.. The experience I got from this was amazing, however, I was not paid for these two months of work. I had to pay for the audition and to pay for my accommodation and living expenses in London.
Thomas : Yes many! Around a third of the credits of our degree are based on internship reports. Each internship has to be with a different company, and generally the amount of responsibility you get in the company increases each time.
In your opinion, what are the differences between a ‘practical work’ at school and in internships?
Holly : I have had fantastic experiences within the school, such has the production of ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ by Jonathan Dove and Alastair Middleton. These projects, however, are still within the school’s buildings and so you never feel as involved in the profession as you would if you were in an environment away from the conservatoire. To me an internship shows you the reality of what your job will be in the future. By working out of your familiar environment, you get closer to the reality of the profession. You also become more aware of the positive and negative aspects of your future career.
Thomas : All the work that you do in school is purely theoretical even though we sometimes work on ‘real case scenarios’ for our finance or marketing class. In school, we would do group work on some issues given by some companies so we have an insight into the real economic world but we still have a teacher who helps us. During internships you are in the companies so even though you are still a student at a business school, you are considered a member of this company for that time. You work and are paid, as is the case with everyone else in the company.
If applicable, how have your internships influenced your way of working?
Holly : The experience I got through BYO really helped me to make the reality of the professional world more clear. It showed me what this kind of a singing career actually involves. Without this kind of experience, you develop beliefs about the things that you can do (singing, teaching etc.) but it is only when you are doing them in a professional context that you appreciate what it is really like and you become aware of your actual abilities. It’s also very useful in terms of contacts.
Thomas : It has helped me define what kind of work I would like to apply to do next year. It has also shown me my strengths and weaknesses which I have then been able to work on with each internship. It made me understand more clearly what it is like to work under pressure and how to deal with this. It also enabled me to learn how to work with people I don’t quite click with. I have made extraordinarily good contacts though my internships.
Would you put your internship experiences on your CV?
Holly : yes always. On CV and biography.
Thomas : yes. Depending on the job you are applying for, certain internships are more useful to include than others.
How do you think that your experiences will contribute to your future employability?
Holly : I think it is crucial to get outside experience. With regards to your CV, the more wide-ranging experience you can include, the more interesting you will be to an audition panel that often knows nothing about you.
Thomas : The fact is that recruiters look for more and more experience in your CV, and it is foolish to think otherwise. This is why my school strongly encourages the students to do a gap year of internships between undergraduate and the postgraduate courses. Today around 80% of my colleagues have done one. The networking I have done through my internships has proved to be very useful. *
*This interview was made at GSMD with Holly and through skype with Thomas.
Although Holly and Thomas are studying in completely different fields, the similarities between their answers and expectations of the benefits and value of internships within a curriculum are perhaps surprising. As Thomas suggests, internships also help to increase positive networking relationships, and can result in more professional opportunities.
With tuition fees at the school increasing every year, there are many people who will not be able to continue to study on a master’s course after their undergraduate course. Therefore, how can we continue to train people whilst, at the same time, introduce them to the realities of their future career?
Maybe it’s time to think about internships. What do you think?