In this blog, ISJ Intern Matthew Peyton reflects on his experiences in the role, what he has learnt and what he’ll take with him into the future.
After a year of working for the Institute for Social Justice, my time as an intern has come to an end. I conducted the role while studying for my Masters degree and it is fair to say that it has been a challenge to balance both my studies and my work. But the experience of being a part of the ISJ has been amazing from start to finish.
Reflecting on the internship, I realise how much I have done and been a part of. From writing blog articles, interviewing lecturers, researchers, and other students, taking part in the numerous events the ISJ held, and helping to redesign the blog pages themselves. Breaking each task down in my mind and organising what I had to do for that week or month made it easy to digest but looking back at all I’ve done I suddenly realise the scale of what I’ve been a part of this past year. This is not an attempt to toot my own horn and to give myself a pat on the back, this is an appreciation for the opportunities given to me and the experiences I have had over this year.
I had done similar work to this in the past, with both my previous job as a student researcher for the Cinema and Social Justice Project and with my Film Studies course, but the ISJ has opened my eyes to what my work in those areas can do and what other people have been working on. Through the ISJ I have got to meet so many amazing people, who share the same passion for change as me. Getting to discuss my own ideas and engage with the YSJ community made it feel as though I was part of this academic circle, something that I had aspired to reach up to since my first year as an undergraduate. Open discussions allowed me the opportunity to suggest plans and ideas with other researchers and experience the excitement of creating something new. This kind of thinking and these kinds of experiences encouraged me to grow, not just as an intern but as a student, to take a step back from my own work and to look at it critically and see what can be done to improve it.
One highlight was the invitation to act as a panel member at the Living Lab’s film workshop during their ‘Feastival’ event, talking about the role film can play in social justice. Having studied film since high school, getting to take part in a film panel with other like-minded people was an amazing experience. Seeing the work that other students and researchers had done, especially within courses that don’t have a direct connection to film, showed me the work that film can do and how far it can reach out to make changes in society.
Another highlight was getting to take part in the ISJ’s Doing Change event. Here I got to present the Cinema and Social Justice Project, the project I had worked on as a student researcher, alongside student researchers from across the university. Not only was this a fantastic experience, seeing all the hard work that other students had done, but I also got to meet so many amazing and exceptional people. I was lucky enough to discuss my work with Dianne Willcocks, the former Vice Chancellor for York St John University, the Archbishop of York, and the Lord Mayor of York. Everyone who came to see my presentation and talk about the project said the same thing, that film can make a change within society and social justice. This is something that I have believed in since I began to study film and to see others believe the same thing inspires me to continue studying and working in social justice.
All of this did not come without challenges though. There were things I initially struggled with, like writing blog articles and interviewing people for the ISJ blog. I had never done writing like this in the past, with my only experience being in essays and reviews . But as I started to write more pieces and get more feedback, the writing became easier. Not only that, but it was fun to write about the work that other social justice advocates were doing. Interviewing different students and academics for articles was a new challenge, as I had never had experience interviewing people before and when I first started it was difficult to know what to ask and how to approach people. However, hearing the passion academics and students had for the work they were doing made me excited to listen to what they had to say and made me want to investigate deeper into their work.
In conclusion, my time as the ISJ’s intern has been such an eye-opening experience. It has given me so many opportunities to grow and develop my skills as both a researcher and a writer. I have got to meet so many talented and creative people and been part of projects that have felt like they have made a change at York St John and beyond. I will carry my time at the ISJ with me wherever I go next and use it to continue to make changes in academics, social justice, and society with my work.