Zoe Lonergan

Eye-opening internship at ONCA

By Zoe Lonergan

As part of the University of Sussex’s Summer Internship programme, I was lucky enough to spend 10 weeks working at ONCA Arts and Ecology as fundraising assistant this summer.

Ideally, as I had just completed my second year as a Psychology student at Sussex, I was planning to spend my summer working in Brighton. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to apply for an internship here and get some great experience which will stand me in good stead when I look for a job after graduating.

I chose ONCA, because I was super impressed by what they do, and liked the fact that they had a focus on arts and the environment.  I also really wanted a feel of what it is like to work in the charity sector, as this is the type of work I think I would like to get involved with after I graduate. It wasn’t until I arrived here that I realised I’d learn so much more than that!

From the moment I started here I was made to feel like part of the team, which made doing my job incredibly fulfilling and pleasurable. There is a small team at ONCA and I was welcomed straight away, alongside George another intern from Sussex uni. As ONCA has recently expanded into their upstairs centre, I was able to see first hand how the organisation was growing, which was very insightful. It was also an opportunity for me to give my opinion on things like branding and the design of the website which I enjoyed doing.

It was great to experience for the first time what it is like to work in a 9-5 style job.

However, I ended up learning much more than this, in terms of both how an organisation runs, and for me personally.

As ONCA is a centre which gives back to the community, I was given the opportunity to learn how to compost and how to make fermented drinks and then translate this knowledge to the public through my blog posts, which was a very rewarding process. After learning about these things I realised that I probably would not have experienced or taken an interest in them if it was not for ONCA.

It wasn’t however until I attended a talk by Cat Fletcher of Freegle that I realised how enriching it was for me working here, and the opportunities there were to acquire new knowledge. I was asked to go along to this event and subsequently write a blog post on it. I was keen to go but I didn’t quite realise how eye-opening this event would be for me.

Living in a student house with 4 other people who don’t recycle meant that it was never a priority for me either. Now my outlook has completely changed after learning how much waste we produce, including food waste. I was lucky enough to meet one of the people behind the Real Junk Food Project which again, has given me more of an opinion on global food waste, and made me want to get more involved about doing something about this problem.

So ultimately, I would like to thank ONCA.

Thank you for making me feel so welcome for ten weeks and for giving me the opportunity to learn about new things and increase my skills, but most importantly, thank you for inspiring me to think differently and be more aware of my surrounding environment. I wish you every success for the future; I’ll be back!