Jessica On Finding Your Feet

This summer we had the delight of hosting Jessica on her student placement. Now back home she is continuing to contribute to the life of GWL through supporting with research and social media for Seeing Things. Below, we hear from Jessica as she reflects on her time, and learning, at GWL this summer. 

It’s a few minutes to midnight on a Sunday night and I just sent a report about my summer placement with GWL to my university. The writing itself was not hard because I am still (and will continue to be) very excited about my internship. But handing in the report feels like officially announcing the end of my time with GWL, which might actually be why I put it off for so long. After all, it has already been a month since I left Scotland behind.

While writing I had to think about all the big and small things I have learned over the summer and what an impact they might eventually have on my life. Whenever I read internship reports I imagine that the author has had this one big, life-changing experience that suddenly transformed them into a functioning and responsible adult. What the experience really turned out to be was a continual process of stumbling and learning.

When you are used to people constantly telling you what to do at school and in university it can be quite a challenge to adjust to working independently. During my internship, I had to learn how to actively decide on projects I wanted to participate in and develop my own ideas, both by myself and as part of a team. Doing something like that for the first time is very exciting, but it can also be a bit scary.

Someone at GWL taught me the expression of “finding your feet” and I think it perfectly describes the process of coming to terms with this. You take your first steps carefully while getting to know all these new people, the place and the atmosphere. You excitedly stare at things with wide eyes and open mouth (or at least I know I did) while walking and we all know how that ends. At some point, you will inevitably trip over your own feet. Maybe it’s just a small stumble because you are overwhelmed by everything, or maybe you actually fall down after making a mistake.

Layered fabric with indistinct text in background. Words on white text in foreground which reads 'I just want people to be kind.. it would make a hell of a difference'.
Banner by Fiona Jack shown at workshop Jessica attended summer, 2017.

When I first came to Glasgow and GWL, I felt like I was stumbling all the time. I wasn’t used to having spoken conversations in English anymore, I had never done such a long internship before and I wasn’t sure in which direction I wanted to go. But in my experience, if you trip and fall at GWL, someone will always be there to take your hand and help you to get up again. There will probably also be another person bringing you a cup of tea to get over the shock, and your knees won’t hurt because of the beautiful and soft carpet in the library.

Anyway – in the end you will always be standing safely again, ready to continue on your way. Most importantly, you will learn that it’s okay to fall down again from time to time. I feel quite lucky that from the very first email, I was given all the resources and help that I could wish for. Suddenly, there was no need to be scared anymore because everyone was so patient and encouraging while I learned how to be a part of the GWL family.

So eventually, you will be able to walk confidently and without stumbling all the time. I started to help out in the front of house team, improved my English, managed to answer the phone without having a heart attack, wrote a blog entry, followed the planning process for the wonderful Saying Their Name performance, spent a few surprisingly fun days cutting and painting silver circles (photo below), gave an interview in front of a camera, helped to organize two Seeing Things trips and basically never got bored while helping out here and there. I had suddenly found my feet and before I knew it, I was running.

A table looking busy with scissors, mugs and other items scattered around. There are also small stacks of silver circles which seem to be the focus of the work.
Multi-tasking on Front of House while making medallions.

Now that the summer and my placement are over, it is quite hard to stop running and adjust to university life again. I miss the project-based and practical way of working, but also the friendly faces, the front desk, the smell of the library building, the chats in the kitchen, the meetings, the china cups and the Scottish accents. I miss everyone who made my time at GWL so unforgettable, informative and most of all fun. Thank you for helping me to find my feet – I can’t wait to let them carry me back to Glasgow again!

We very much hope to see Jessica back in the library soon! We are so grateful for all the contributions Jessica, and other student placements and volunteers, make to to the library. If you volunteered but haven’t visited for a while, we hope to see you soon!

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