Managing an internship as an autistic person

Some of you have probably seen on Facebook, that I recently finished my nearly six months long internship. Today I want to tell you a bit about, how it was for me as an autistic person to be in an internship.

My internship
I am currently studying Computer Science. It takes two and a half years to finish that study and I am in the last semester. A part of that semester is doing an internship for three months. Normally you have to work full time, but I applied to be able to work part time and double the length of my internship instead. That means, that I only worked 20 hours per week, but my internship was around six months long.

The job interview
When I started to write applications, I was really bothered by my anxiety. I was so afraid of calling companies and going to a job interview. Luckily, I only had to go to one job interview, because they immediately wanted me as an intern. Before the job interview, I was so nervous. I was nauseous all the time because of my anxiety, so my worst fear was throwing up during the conversation. Of course, that didn’t happen, but I did get close to dropping my glass of water, because I was shaking so much. The interview worked out really well anyways. I didn’t even have to say much. My boss just told me about the company and then he said, that he really liked my application, so I was offered the internship. It was definitely not necessary for me to be so nervous.

The first days
I started my internship in the beginning of January and I actually managed not to think too much about it during Christmas holidays. But at some point, my anxiety obviously came back. I was really, really lucky though. One of my classmates got an internship at the same company, so I wasn’t totally alone as a new intern. That was kind of like a safety net for me. When I’m new places, but I have someone with me, who I know, it reduces my anxiety a lot.

New routines, new people
One of the hardest things for me in the beginning was meeting new colleagues all the time and not knowing which days they were working. That was really stressful and exhausting. Not everyone was working the same days or hours, so I always had to listen very carefully and ask a lot in order to know, when everyone was working at the office. I know, a lot of people would say, that that’s not important at all. But for my autism it is really important. I always like to know everything and be totally prepared. And a part of that is knowing which colleagues there were at work each day. At the end I kind of figured out, when most people were working, but it was still hard for me that not everyone had fixed hours. One of the people who did however work at the office most days, was my classmate. So that was quite comforting to know, that he would be there.

My work
The most challenging part of my internship were definitely my work tasks. It totally makes sense because you’re doing an internship to learn something new and that can be difficult. But I think, for me it was even more challenging than for most people. That’s because I panicked nearly every time, I got a new task. When I can’t see a solution already at the beginning of a task, I get really nervous and feel like I will never be able to finish my work. When time went on, this got better and I kind of learned that I am actually able to find solutions, even when I don’t see them at the beginning. But it’s still something I’m struggling with.

The social part
Something, that was challenging for me as well during my internship, was the social part. The “worst” were the lunch breaks. I mostly really wanted to chat with my coworkers, but I didn’t always know what to say and when to say something. So, I really used a lot of energy on thinking about the social part of being at a workplace.

Home office during corona
I think, I was around halfway through my internship, when we got sent home because of the corona virus. What I really enjoyed about home office was that I didn’t have to worry about the social aspects of working. I could finally focus only on my work tasks and didn’t get distracted by thinking about being together with my colleagues. In the beginning it was obviously hard not to have my coworkers around, because I couldn’t ask for help that easily anymore. But after a while I started to be able to fix problems on my own. And if I really needed help, I could text my colleagues. All in all, I really enjoyed working from home. It just took some time to adjust to it.

I’m proud
I feel like there were quite a lot of challenges during my internship. I couldn’t write about them all because otherwise it would take you forever to read it, but now you at least got to know a bit about my internship. I am definitely super proud about having finished my internship and having learned so much. It’s crazy that the six months suddenly are over.

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