Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Experiencing the Edinburgh festivals as an intern

English Literature student Susanna Demelas tells us about spending the summer working on some of the biggest festivals in Edinburgh as the College Festival Projects Intern.

Susanna Demelas in front of a mosaic window
Susanna Demelas in front of a mosaic window

Every August, Edinburgh is home to some of the largest festivals and celebrations of arts and culture in the world.

Susanna Demelas, a fourth year student of English Literature at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), takes us behind the scenes at the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival and reveals what she took away from her three-month Employ.ed internship in the summer of 2022.

Securing the internship

Keep your ears and eyes open, and sign up to email alerts from Employ.ed. Those are Susanna's best tips for someone looking for an internship at the University of Edinburgh. Through the emails, Susanna realised "just how many opportunities there are at the University.”

Having previous experience with Women X Film Festival, as well as curating and organising events for Period Poverty University of Edinburgh, Susanna was excited by the prospect of working with some of the big festivals in Edinburgh, and decided to apply for the College Festival Projects internship. 

She says: “I admire the work of these festivals so much, and had always wanted to work with them in some capacity, so this aspect of the internship really encouraged me to apply.“

Susanna spent a few days updating her CV and writing and editing her cover letter. She joined forces with a couple of friends, who were also applying for internships, by going over their applications together and helping each other make improvements. “All in all, I think I spent a week to complete the application,” Susanna explains. 

A week after submitting the application at the end of April, Susanna was contacted for an interview, and just a few hours after interviewing for the role, she was told that she had been successful and would be starting the internship in the summer.

A great professional and social experience

Susanna’s main responsibilities as an intern revolved around event planning, communication and on-the-day event delivery. She mainly worked on reception events sponsored by the University of Edinburgh at both the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh International Festival.

Tasks were varied and included creating and updating event plans, completing risk assessments, communicating with and assisting guests and – Susanna’s personal favourite – offering creative support and assistance, and working on the day of the events: “It’s so satisfying to watch all the work completed behind the scenes transform into something tangible.”

The internship has opened Susanna’s eyes to the many types of roles involved in an event at different departments and organisations: “I’ve become aware of so many jobs I didn’t even know existed before this internship. This has broadened my professional horizon as I’ve had the chance to learn about many different lines of work, as well as their required skill sets.”

“This internship has allowed me to meet so many inspiring people who work at the University, and I’ve been able to build relationships and work with people I might not have met otherwise, so it’s also been a great social experience.”

Reaffirming a love for the arts

Flower display at reception for Jenni Fagan during the Book Festival
Flower display at reception for Jenni Fagan. Bouquets provided by Garlands. Photograph by Chris Scott.

On top of learning of learning about event planning and everything that goes on behind the scenes, Susanna’s work with the Edinburgh festivals reaffirmed her love for the arts.

She recalls a particular event with Scottish author Jenni Fagan that she helped plan and deliver. Susanna was in charge of working with the florist to create three floral displays inspired by Jenni's latest book, ‘Hex’.

Not only were the flowers well received by the guests, but Jenni personally told Susanna how touched she was by the thought and effort put into the displays at the reception.

Susanna says: “This interaction taught me just how valuable the 'small' creative details are when it comes to events planning, and this is something which I’ll definitely bear in mind as I move forward through my career.”

“Having had this experience, I hope to be able to continue to work within the creative industries, and I definitely think that this internship has provided me with a solid foundation for this,” she rounds off.

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We teach over 30 single and joint MA undergraduate honours programmes in English and Scottish Literature and a full range of taught and research-led postgraduate programmes, from one-year masters degrees to PhDs in English Literature and Creative Writing.

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