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Diving into depth with challenging internship at master's Societal Resilience

23 January 2023
How can you communicate scientific research to society? That was what Farah Makrani, master's student in Societal Resilience, dealt with during her internship at the Verwey-Jonker Instituut, a research institute in Utrecht. Through this internship, Farah was able to gain insight into what working life can look like. "Here, I learned how I can use my experiences during my master's in the working field."

Part of the Societal Resilience research master's programme is an internship that takes about four to five months. Farah was immediately interested in the Verwey-Jonker Instituut given its focus on social issues. She explains that their publications are often highly visible in the media and the institute is well-known among sociologists. The institute conducts independent academic research on interesting social issues, such as polarisation, crime and education, and focuses on creating social impact with their research.   

Farah's work at Verwey-Jonker included attending meetings on researchers' social media presence, the latest publications and other developments within the research institute. She also engaged in reading and summarising literature, searching and analysing data and brainstorming on various projects.  

There was a nice working atmosphere, says Farah. ''Colleagues ask what your personal interests are, who you are and where you want to go, where you would like to work in the future, and whether you need support in doing so.'' Furthermore, there is a lot of personal attention; they are very involved and they approach you themselves to ask how you are doing. Farah has also gained more insight into what work experience looks like through her internship. It is now clear to her how the things she learned are relevant in the work field. According to her, this helps her understand where social problems come from and how they can be solved.   

Farah expected a rigid work structure at the Verwey-Jonker Instituut, but this turned out to be very different in practice. ''In the research world, you work at your own pace. You depend on the progress you make in your research. Sometimes you also stand still for a while and don't know how to proceed, take a step back and maybe have to go in a different direction. You have to be constantly flexible and adapt to the research. I got a more realistic picture of what it is like to work as a researcher outside the university. And that, of course, is also the purpose of gaining experience outside the subjects you get during your master's.''  

What Farah likes about the Societal Resilience master's is the depth of quantitative methods. Within the study, she works a lot with the software RStudio and she really enjoys learning what you can do with it. According to Farah, the international and interdisciplinary nature of the master's programme contributes significantly to your development. The study distinguishes itself by its focus on data sciences on the one hand and the coming together of people with diverse cultures, study backgrounds and (working) experiences on the other.   

Farah appreciates that the master's prepares students well for a PhD position and they can experience for themselves through an internship whether doing research suits them well. Also, students who want to enter the job market are helped to find a position in the field with the help of the university's network and lecturers.  

Farah has come to realise through her internship that research suits her well and would definitely like to pursue this in the future. Before Farah started her master's, she followed the bachelor's programme in Sociology at VU Amsterdam. From the start, she has been very fond of the lecturers and nice atmosphere at VU. ''During the taster days, I noticed that the atmosphere is really different from other universities. You are really seen as a student here.'' Farah therefore certainly does not rule out staying active at VU as a researcher after her master's.