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Intern story: Emad Ahmed – My unusual journey into journalism

It is a common misconception to think that in order to land a job in the media, you need to have either had a strong media background or studied a similar subject at university. Of course this is not the case. In actual fact, employers are looking for candidates from a wide range of academic backgrounds and actually consider it to be an advantage if you studied medicine, law or science. 

In this blog piece, Creative Access intern Emad Ahmed talks about how his science background helped him land his internship at New Statesman.

Amazingly, I stumbled into my role as a science and technology writer at the New Statesman all because of a simple tweet from Creative Access. An application and a short interview later, I was awarded the internship.

Graduating in such a tough climate recently has its challenges. It was six months after graduation when I was chosen for my position, so I’ll give the most important piece of advice right here: don’t lose hope!

The role itself has been immensely valuable, being able to write for one of the most well-respected publications in the country. My journey wasn’t a traditional one, as I didn’t study the usual suspects of PPE or English literature. I studied biology at Newcastle University, but I was sure to remain active in doing what I loved more: writing, writing, writing. During my uni years, I travelled around and interviewed many academics (and my local MP!) for a science podcast, and wrote for the student newspaper and the student science magazine. I also did some extra work for Microsoft as a brand ambassador.

All of these activities were fields in which I was already interested in: science, journalism and technology. After all, very few courses in universities are tailored for specific jobs (such as medicine or law). So I can confirm, as living proof, that it’s possible to study something you’re interested in, all whilst engaging in extra stuff which you may also be passionate about. And that’s the reason I was accepted for my internship! Plus, I can now brag in the office about being the only science graduate on staff.

There have been so many highlights during my internship. Even the writing itself has been relaxed and in no way restricted. I’ve written about the latest science research (unsurprisingly), politics, games and also modern internet culture. I’ve also had excellent opportunities away from the office, going to special events, interviewing comedian Hari Kondabolu and also Richard Dawkins (even if he did angrily walk off!). The subsequent article I wrote about Islamophobia became very popular on the website, and I received a heap of support and praise from both colleagues and beyond, which was very satisfying.

However, the most exciting aspect has been the winter trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, examining its status as Europe’s green capital for 2016. I met some amazing people and fellow journalists, saw breath-taking scenery and fell down twice during a thrilling downhill bicycle ride from the 1,600m heights of Velika Planina. It’s a country I definitely recommend you to visit someday!

Although I wasn’t completely new to the work of journalism, I have become more professional in my writing style, using the advice of colleagues (who are all amazing by the way – I have to mention this!), having a keen eye for a new story and meeting new people. It’s both the expertise and the accompanying soft skills which I know will help me in future roles. I’m now hoping to use all of this experience for a permanent role in journalism or a related communications field in the near future.

Creative Access have been amazing from the very first day. I hope anyone wanting to work through the organisation keeps a few important things in mind: be professional, work hard and open up to learning new things.

With this in mind, you’ll have no problem succeeding in the media industry, even if you too have a biology degree.