Internships: Because there's life after uni

Publication date
Saturday, 1 Apr 2017

Meet Jessica Cregan, whose internship at The Canberra Hospital has changed her future.

It’s hard to know what to study at university. Luckily, you can change your mind.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got here so I tried to do as broad a degree as possible,” says Arts/Science flexible double degree student Jessica Cregan.

“And then, what I wanted to do has changed dramatically since starting. I began with forensic anthropology and I really enjoyed that, but I got introduced to more and more genetics as I went through my degree, which became more and more what I wanted to do.”

But even as you’re finishing your degree, you still might not know what career you’d like to pursue. This is where an internship can ensure you’re setting off on the right path.

“An internship helps people make a decision about their future,” Jessica says. “You might decide you love the job, or you might say, now I’ve experienced it, I see it’s not really my thing, and you can make that decision before it’s too late.”

Jessica completed a genetic counselling internship as part of her biology major, and she says it has “solidified” her career decisions.

“There were parts of the job of being a genetic counsellor that I wasn’t quite sure about, but I went into the internship and it all just clicked.

“It was a week internship at The Canberra Hospital plus an independent research study based on what I saw there. I wanted to do some research, and I wanted to get more of an idea about genetic counselling, so it was exactly what I was looking for. And it counts for credit.”

Genetic counselling is a relatively new field, which provides patients with information and support about health problems which run in their family. Jessica says her experience as an intern genetic counsellor was a realistic one, which allowed her to see the challenges of the profession.

“I got to sit in on patient meetings and staff meetings, and followed the most interesting cases around. I got to see the consultations at the beginning of the genetic counselling process, and the end of the process where the patient is talking to a clinical geneticist and getting the nitty gritty stuff done.

“What I really appreciated was that they didn’t coddle me when I got there. They didn’t just show me the nice cases. I got to see stuff that was quite confronting and stuff I had never heard of before. Genetic counselling is really interesting, but it can be quite difficult and they made sure to show me that because they knew I was looking into it as a career.”

While she might not have known where she was headed when she started her degree, Jessica knows exactly what she wants now, and is applying for a master’s to get her there.

“I am so grateful to have had the experience of the internship. I have friends studying genetics at other universities and they can’t believe I got to spend a week doing this.”

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