With so many different clients to support,
we always say agency life involves wearing many hats. But here’s another hat I’ve
had the opportunity to wear, that of a part-time intern, full-time student.
Like many students, juggling school and
work at the same time isn’t new to me. This semester, though, was my first time
being an intern while studying. Following my 10-week full-time internship at
Rice over the summer break, I continued as a part-time intern after returning
to school. Here are some key takeaways I’ve learnt over the past few months:
Staying focused – walking the tightrope
between school and work
My return to institutionalised education in
August was jarring, having grown accustomed to the daily dynamisms of PR,
especially since we were in the middle of a communications campaign for a
social enterprise festival organised by one of our clients. Having largely
spearheaded communications for the event during my summer internship, I wanted
to continue supporting it. And so I kept up with media queries, interview
pitches and email follow-ups to the best of my ability while juggling my
various responsibilities at school.
Although that period was particularly hectic,
the challenge wasn't so much physical (i.e. long hours at school and work), but
rather having my focus split in two directions. On one hand, school demanded
consistent attention, but on the other, I was bursting with eagerness and
excitement to see the festival to the end. I recall on a few occasions having to
pick up time-sensitive phone calls from journalists, then returning to my books
only to feel restless, itching for my study sessions to end so I could get back
But with time came more balance between my responsibilities.
As the festival came to an end and my internship responsibilities shifted to
more ad-hoc support, I gradually learnt how to juggle both school and work,
without letting either eat into each other.
Code-switching – being an art student and a
PR intern at the same time
Still, there was another kind of
code-switching I had to grapple with, one related to creativity. A bit of
context – I’m an Arts major at Yale-NUS College, primarily specialising in creative
non-fiction. Although much of what we do in PR belongs to the creative sector, our
industry warrants a very difficult kind of creativity than that of the creative
arts. As a fourth-year student, I’m now working on building an installation for
my final year project, and it has been challenging to transition from an
artistic headspace to one that is more suited to, for example, crafting an
article for an ad-tech client, and then back again.
Moments of pure, unadulterated focus are
hard to come by. But as I’ve come to learn, it is precisely these limitations
that have pushed me to make the best out of my time to keep those creative
juices flowing, both at school and at work, and keep my project going.
Work-life-school balance – meeting
deadlines while finding time for myself
As fellow Ricer Jael has shown, work-life balance in the PR industry isn’t a myth.
But what of work-life-school balance? To begin with, being a student can
already feel like a 24/7 job. With an additional 15 hours of work each week
this semester, time became an even more precious commodity.
Here’s a snapshot of what my week typically
looks like: 2 consecutive days packed with classes, 1-2 days in the office or
working from home, weekends spent preparing for classes, and whatever time I
have left working on school assignments, preparing for exams and my final year
Thankfully, my stint as a PR intern has armed
me with a readiness to take on deadlines and no room for procrastination. I
remember a day spent drafting 2-3 contributions at work, with the knowledge
that a 5k-word research essay was waiting for me once I got home. Since
productivity ran high that day, I decided to ride on it and stayed in the
office till 10pm cranking out my essay.
Now what of the ‘life’ part of
work-life-school balance? I’ve always believed that in our own ways, we can
find time for our passions, but it does take a lot of re-prioritising and an
effort to stay focused on what matters the most. Exercise is something I tend
to neglect when I get too busy, so I registered for a few exercise classes to
keep myself committed to staying fit. And whenever I can, I put aside 30
minutes before sleep to unwind with music and curl up with my books. Caring for
my pets has also provided little breathers and moments of joy amidst the whirlwind
of everyday life.
Just like this blog post, my internship is drawing
to a close, and it’s hard to put into words what the past 7 months have been
like – the colourful Rice culture I’ve had the privilege of peeking into, the
opportunities and challenges I’ve experienced, and the friends I’ve made. What
an unforgettable, humbling journey this has been, and I can’t wait to be back.