(Me trying to be professional and get a serious photo but the excitement sort of takes over as demonstrated by my face)
Shannon here! Unfortunately I have reached the end of my internship with Breathworks, and so I’ve been asked to write a little summary of my experience. I will try not to get too emotional in the process, as it really has been a fantastic little chapter in my life!
Firstly, a quick introduction as to how I found myself at Breathworks. I am an undergraduate Psychology student at the University of Leeds, currently on the ‘sandwich’ work placement year of my degree. Over the last year, I have suffered badly with anxiety, and so having stumbled upon mindfulness as a therapy in my personal life, I started to become very interested in exploring it further academically through my degree. I approached Breathworks who very kindly offered me an internship as a research assistant.
From my first week in the office, I knew I was in for a wonderful experience. Being located in the Manchester Buddhist centre, I found myself in the most serene environment, with access to drop-in lunchtime meditation sessions and an abundance of opportunities to stock up on incense! The team were so welcoming and helped me to settle in very quickly.
Despite only being on a 3-month placement, I have gained a HUGE amount of experience. I began my placement by familiarising myself with the latest literature on mindfulness and how it has been used to help those managing chronic conditions and pain. This gave me a great introduction into the company, and off the back of this I began writing research summaries for the website, and re-designing the look of the research page to make it much more reader friendly (so I even managed to tap into my creative side!)
Once I had familiarised myself with the company, I had the opportunity to work with several other team members on some rather exciting data analysis – (it was here I truly embraced my inner geek!) Breathworks are continuously looking to add to the evidence base on their 8-week courses, and so I began working on a project which involved collecting, analysing and interpreting questionnaire data from participants at various time-points after having completed one of our courses. Through this, I further expanded my knowledge of computer programmes such as survey monkey, Microsoft Excel and SPSS statistics. This was a fabulous opportunity for me as a Psychology student, as I had my first experience of working with ‘real life’ raw data rather than the ‘artificially clean’ data that I have worked with previously in my course. Through this, I learned a lot about issues and complications that researchers may face with data collection, and ways to reduce these problems. I also found interpreting the results much more rewarding than when working with university data, as you could physically see real life participants’ wellbeing improve significantly after having taken part in one of our courses.
To really understand the data I was working with, I was kindly given the opportunity to attend one of the courses, which in itself was an amazing learning curve and has provided me with some valuable coping mechanisms.
As my internship came to a close, I summarised the research I conducted onto a poster which was presented at an upcoming academic conference held by the British Pain Society in May (one which I was kindly invited to attend!). I see this as the perfect end to my time here, and am very proud to have produced something which I will be able to take with me when I return to university. I will definitely be looking to continue my career in mindfulness research, and already have made plans to collaborate with Breathworks when conducting my final year project for my dissertation.
Just to end, here are a few key lessons I have learned whilst on my placement:
- Talking on the phone isn’t as scary as it first seems!
- There is almost always a shortcut on Microsoft Excel that will literally save hours of your life (I found out the hard way…)
- To work in an office, you must know how to make tea.
Thank you to everyone at Breathworks for such a fabulous experience! You will be truly missed!