Reflective Learning from a Paid Internship

Person sat on hilltop looking over green land and winding road below ways of working

Reflective Learning from a Paid Internship

Catrin Lyddon is a researcher and practitioner with a Masters of Research in the field of health from Swansea University.  Here she reflects on a paid internship at Urban Habitats.  This was made possible through funding from Welsh Government and with Swansea University with a specific focus on supporting graduates from groups who face barriers to employment. In line with Urban Habitats’ commitment to creating good work in local places the internship was paid above the level of the Real Living Wage.

Image credit: Cat Lyddon

Intern Research Associate at Urban Habitats

A new academic year and a new start. For many people, things have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic hit: for me this means a change of job, a change of location and a transition to home working. Beyond the practical implications however COVID-19 has encouraged many of us to think longer term about how we want to live and how paid employment fits as part of this.  For me this meant the end of maternity leave, the prospect of finding work in a world that was adapting to the global pandemic and more widely and the need to gain experience in the skills area I’d trained in. What seemed like a lot to ask suddenly became much clearer once I’d embarked on my paid internship with Urban Habitats.

Stepping stones to the future

My role as intern research associate played an important role in supporting Urban Habitats to develop and to put its vision and values into action across all its activities. I found myself working with organisations both in Wales and internationally, and I certainly feel I have been fully immersed in these activities and have helped bring that vision to people we work with.

Co-learning is a big part of Urban Habitats, and for this I am thankful. As a micro-business this internship provided an opportunity for the practice to start to think more about what it means to be a learning organisation. From the outset, we co-created my learning goals, intending to give me a clear direction of study throughout my internship. This was also useful as a framework to track and review progress easily.

An early useful insight was to broaden those goals which enabled me to think strategically, diversify my learning goals, and ensuring I had clear, positive steps to take. The goals were: develop research methods in practice, sharing knowledge and impact with research, business development, personal professional development, and discovering potential career paths.

Urban Habitats’ ways of working are to respond to: reducing health inequalities, population health, the climate emergency and planetary health, creating health with communities, and being evidence informed. These values are integral to Urban Habitats’ culture and supported an inclusive and diverse learning environment for my internship.

I have been involved in a variety of work including; a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) for the Welsh Health Impact Assessment Unit (WHIASU) at Public Health Wales on the topic of circular economy; a workshop helping a community council think about community engagement and creating health for their community; experiencing the latest thinking from across the globe and representing Urban Habitats at Healthy City Design International Congress; desktop research to support Urban Habitats future research strategy; and wider project and business activities.

The connections I have created in this role have been extremely beneficial, broadening my career options and even understanding the range of what’s possible.  I also have a better understanding of what is needed to have a fruitful career.  I am now keen to explore future areas of health, health inequalities, health education and engagement, sustainability and health and wellbeing.

Mountain road with hillside and rainbow against grey sky
Image credit: Cat Lyddon

My vision

My hope is to work towards healthier places and values based on what contributes to a healthy, happy and fulfilled life and not solely as a cost or return on investment. This is what has made my time at Urban Habitats so successful. Mark Drane, director at Urban Habitats, demonstrates so much more than this formal title. He cares. Not just about what is best for the business, but what is best for the environment, the employees, the wider world around us. And this is shown in the values that underpin Urban Habitats as a practice.

Looking to the future

As a new parent, heading into work at the tail end of a global pandemic, I could not have asked for a better place to continue my development. Urban Habitats allowed me to take ownership over my work and learning, with flexibility around personal commitments, I was able to be a part of the working team. My wellbeing, my family’s wellbeing, and my overall learning experience was taken into account. Urban Habitats values a work life balance far beyond the usual limited scope of many organisations and for that I am thankful. I have the confidence to know that I can manage a family life alongside a successful working life, and neither have to be compromised if I am in the right environment, which is exactly what was provided at Urban Habitats.

Get in touch

I am open to future work and can be contacted via LinkedIn. Please get in contact for a chat about future opportunities.

Connect with Cat on Twitter and Linkedin.

Cat Lyddon