A Refreshing Experience: My Remote Internship at HELC
I don’t remember why, but I got up, went downstairs, and peeked out from the hallway to the sitting room. I asked my mother if I could apply for an internship at her firm, Health Ethics and Law Consulting. She told me she’d ask one of her employees to send an offer letter to me and I agreed and left.
As laughable as it might sound, I applied because I was bored. For a while I had been feeling a bit directionless before school started again in September last year. And serving this internship would mean working during the holidays, and feeling productive, putting my creativity to use, excelling in something instead of remaining in what felt like a blank space like I had.
At first, I didn’t think of it in too much detail and the idea didn’t bring me too much out of my present slump – it was my mother’s firm, they focused on health law, and she worked so much at home, made so many phone calls, had to meet deadlines for so many projects – I thought I had overheard all I needed to hear. I hadn’t pictured working there to be anything special yet. In fact, when I thought of it, I mostly daydreamed about how I’d get to buy snacks at the shop in the office building every day I finished. I was only disillusioned when I remembered with a start that we were in the midst of a pandemic, and that it’d probably mean a return to Zoom Meetings.
But I remember upon opening my email and receiving that offer letter, reading my name typed there, “Mr Kelechi Onuobia”, something sparked in me. I rushed to print the pages out, sign the document and send it back. It was something to be excited about, something I wanted to ace, and something I meticulously prepared for weeks in advance during weekends in-between school, researching what to expect, what would be expected of me, as much as I could. I became very much occupied with familiarising myself with what the internship – my first internship – would be like as my anticipation grew.
I remember how rushed and panicked I felt on the morning of my first day. It turned out I was meant to meet my manager, Mr Adeyinka Shittu, for my “intern onboarding” meeting on the morning of my first day – and I felt no better upon discovering I had missed the first meeting for it so it had to be rescheduled, and the email about it was found a little too late in my spam (I remember reading that last line “Be punctual!” in panic).
I was also nervous to have a conversation one-on-one with him at all, and was almost certain I would sound awkward.
But I remember being quite surprised at how friendly and jovial Mr Yinka was. He asked me a few questions about myself, and, save for a few questions where I could have prepared a bit more, I was considerably calmer and much more excited than nervous now for what was to come.
Starting that day, I was given a health profile and small tasks to do, mostly writing. I had to draft a thank-you letter for those who attended a CHELD web seminar held by a related NGO, Centre for Health Ethics Law and Consulting, and a write-up for a social media thread/blog post on behalf of CHELD on “10 ways to keep your sanity this Christmas”, on which I had to not only do medical research, but employ my own creativity and really brainstorm to come up with original ideas. I was especially gratified when I was praised on how I’d done with the write-up and was subsequently asked to turn into an infographic using Canva.com to make it more appealing visually. This was my first time using the interface, and I took a lot of initiative in picking out a template and deciding the most appropriate design, how to display the text, and what pictures and icons to use to present and convey the message best.
I was also invited to attend a meeting where professionals from around the world discussed and presented case studies on migration in several countries around the world and I got to experience the kind of work CHELD and HELC do for both their clients in Nigeria and international organisations.
And, of course, I got to attend my first weekly team meeting, where once again my confidence and public speaking skills were put to the test. I had to formally introduce myself to the rest of the team, and, like my colleagues, gave a report on the work I had done that week to everyone, including the Founder who led the team meeting, Dr Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, my mother.
Having now finished the internship, I have taken away new resources I was introduced to and used for the first time.
This experience challenged me in a number of ways. There were multiple times where I was put on the spot, and, in hindsight, it would have benefited me to have prepared more beforehand. In addition, I also had to adapt to managing the workload and meeting deadlines. I also had to make a habit of responding quickly to emails, given it was a remote internship and ensuring them I was engaged and working was more important than ever.
Thanks to this internship, I’ve also learnt of new resources people use create a certain standard of work that I really admire, such as Canva.com, and I was glad to have been introduced to and able to try my hands at that process. I believe it’s also boosted my confidence, as it gave me the chance to work hard at and present projects I’d given my all into, and a platform where I was able to put myself out there, show what I could do and cast aside my shyness.
Because of these, despite the restrictions of the pandemic, I believe this internship has exposed me to what would be expected of me in the workplace, and I confident getting to learn a bit of that during secondary school will really aid me in the future.
For me, this internship has truly become an example of why you should take every opportunity you have – because as childish as interning at my mother’s firm could’ve sounded, it gave me an outlet to put energy into producing something of quality, and an opportunity like that can do wonders for you.