Last summer, as I worked eight hour Fringe shifts as a kitchen porter, I fantasised about one day being able to land a proper desk job. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy kitchen work, it has taught me a lot about myself and serves as my primary viewpoint into the working world. Upon entering university, I felt gravely under-prepared for whatever life would be outside of the comfortable bubble of higher education. To lessen that anxiety, I decided to prove to myself that I could grind my way through the jobs widely considered undesirable and exhausting. Although I still feel a gnawing sense of precarity in a job market filled to the brim with highly educated and capable candidates, I now know that I have roles that I can always fall back on. When I started working in kitchens, I knew that I would always have a place to return to that I would actually want to be in. With that foundation, I feel more comfortable branching off into other career paths. This summer, I’ve traded out my station at a dishwasher for a more glamorous desk and dual screen monitor. Transitioning towards working a desk job for the university seemed like a huge shift at the beginning of summer. However, I have found that carrying over the flow of work from a kitchen has allowed me to enjoy my role significantly more than I would have otherwise. The tedium of eight straight hours of washing dishes gives one a lot of time to think and forces you to get creative with how you spend your time.
Working with Learn Foundations
Coming into my interview, I was warned of the monotonous and often unexciting nature of the work entailed for the internship. The repetitive nature of the work has definitely proved true, with most days consisting of staring into uniform spreadsheets. However, this work is building towards changes in the ways in which students’ access information that will hopefully prove fruitful in the near future. Recently, we have been generating a wealth of data on the accessibility level of resources within Learn. Our task means that we spend hours sifting through learn pages and inputting the same three letters into spreadsheet. Although the work oscillates between mindless and gruelling depending on one’s mood, it is moving towards productive and rewarding outcomes. The data that we are generating will be put towards encouraging schools to make their resources accessible to all, creating a more even playing-field for those with learning disabilities or visual impairments. By creating this information, the needs of students can be prioritised in a tangible way moving forwards.
I’ve managed to liven up the work through a combination of curiosity, music selections and socialising. I show up most days looking forward to spending hours filing through the catalogues of podcasts and musicians. Over the past two months I’ve fully accepted that I have the music taste of an old man, and have been having a great time shamelessly listening to blues and folk songs. One of the best aspects of the job has been the ability to look through learn courses that would have previously been blocked off from my subject area as a student. My personal favourite course that I’ve looked through is ‘In Search of Modern Selves: Psychiatry and Psychotherapies in India and Japan, 1880-present’, which carves out a fascinating niche of culture and history. Alongside that, having a cohort of nine other interns on the project has made the experience a lot more social and lively. On a typical coffee break, we can be found passionately debating worker’s rights or trying to instil a love of reading into one of our less than literary colleagues. Working with the freedom to listen to music, poke around Learn courses, and socialise has made this internship a fulfilling and engaging experience.
I am glad to be contributing to a project that will enhance students’ experiences at the university and make the University’s virtual learning environment a more consistent and accessible platform. Through this position, I’ve gained perspective on how technologies impact students’ learning and attitudes, which makes even the most laborious of work feel worthwhile. Drawing in my previous experiences working in kitchens, I can feel the use of finding zen in the flow of repetitive tasks. I think there’s significant value in finding amusement and insight within one’s work, regardless of how boring it appears to be on the surface.