Vincent’s Intern Story Part 2: Learning Leadership and Innovation

6 min readJun 24, 2022


Story written by ErasmusX Intern Vincent Smeding

Hi, my name is Vincent Smeding and two months ago I started my internship at ErasmusX. During the last few months, I have been working within the ErasmusX team as a junior business developer. This is part two of my blog series in which I will be sharing my successes, failures, struggles and learning moments in pursuing my personal learning goals. If you missed the first blog in this series, you can read it here.

For those that are up to date: Please enjoy my second blog where I discuss one of the failures I had trying to balance my thesis, internship and personal life.

Epilogue: The fail fast forward session

The story of this blog starts with me attending a fail fast forward session hosted by ErasmusX Director Farshida Zafar halfway through April. In this session, we thoroughly discussed study and thesis stress and how it had impacted our lives so far. We openly talked about our personal failures, the hardships we had experienced and resilience. We also gave each other advice on how to structure life, asking for help when needed and mindsets helpful to attain your goals. For me, the session was a great moment to share all the knowledge I had on failure (as I had done my fair share of failing in the past) as well as to learn from others.

I talked about the importance of taking a step back and evaluating your weekly and daily routines, because they are the backbone of your personal productivity. It is crucial to know when you are most productive so you can plan your work hours around those moments. It is also crucial to listen to your body and mind, and to schedule a break when you need one. It might feel like taking a break means you are not working when you should be, making you less productive, but the opposite is true. By regularly taking breaks you become more productive and focused during the times at which you do work. Furthermore, I stressed the importance of building stress relief into your daily and weekly routine. Lastly, I talked about how changing your routine is hard and how finding a routine you feel comfortable with takes time and conscientious effort. Therefore, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you can’t change your life in the blink of an eye. You should also ask for help in changing it, because an outside perspective can balance your view on things. Furthermore, you sometimes know the answer to your own questions, but sometimes you just need someone else to say those things to you.

Missed deadline

However, following your own advice is hard at times. By starting this internship I had to make a very sudden switch from my regular study routine to my thesis and internship routine. Instead of taking a step back and evaluating the changes that I needed to make to successfully complete my thesis and internship, I jumped straight in and just started doing whatever. By doing this, I disregarded another piece of advice I gave: building stress relief into your routine. My biggest stress relief is running, it clears my head and brings me into contact with nature in a way nothing else can. However, I didn’t anticipate the complexity of working in a high performance team and what that would mean for my personal life, and in particular my running schedule. I couldn’t find a good time to actually run. Balancing work, studying and other obligations seemed to be hard and resulted in me missing a running session every week for the first six weeks of my internship. Not being able to clear my head. I became jittery and less focused. By the time I noticed the impact of my missed training sessions I decided to start running at six in the morning. But getting up this early was hard, making me miss even more training sessions. I tried to change my routine in the blink of an eye and actually started beating myself up when it didn’t immediately work: another advice disregarded. Building a new habit was not as easy as I thought.

Not taking a step back to evaluate my routines, trying to change my routine in a blink of an eye and missing running training nearly every week resulted in a major drain on my energy levels. I was still able to go to the office and do my internship work, but when it would come to working on my thesis I would just feel empty. During the time at which I should’ve been working on my thesis, I was doing everything to distract myself from doing thesis work. And instead of taking a break, I would sit behind my laptop to give myself the illusion that I could start working at any moment. Again, ignoring yet another piece of my own advice. I would also use the reopening of the world after corona as an excuse to not do anything on my thesis. This all resulted in me missing a thesis deadline on the 25th of April. I was supposed to hand in my introduction and methods section, but hadn’t yet started writing anything. In fact, I didn’t even know this deadline existed until my thesis supervisor contacted me.

My response to the missed deadline

One piece of advice that I gave and followed was that it is okay to ask for help. After my thesis supervisor contacted me, I immediately reached out to Farshida Zafar (my internship supervisor at ErasmusX) for help on balancing the different tasks and activities in my life. I also indicated to my thesis supervisor and internship supervisor from my faculty, the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the EUR, that I was struggling to find the right balance between my thesis, internship, and personal life. Their responses once again showed me the benefits of being vulnerable. No one got angry or disappointed. They valued my honesty and gave me lifelines by extending my personal deadline and giving me advice.

Together with Farshida, I created an overview in a matrix to determine the priority of my tasks. We looked into the distribution of hours in my week and came to the (very painful) conclusion that the amount of time I was putting in my thesis just wasn’t enough. I needed to start scheduling more time and commiting to those times by changing the environment I was doing my tasks in. So, I started going to the university library to work on my thesis instead of working from home. I also needed to utilize downtime at my internship by doing small bits of thesis work in between meetings. She also told me that changing the time at which you get up is a hard routine change and that I shouldn’t be frustrated by needing an adjustment period. I already knew all of these things, but sometimes you know the answers to your own problems, and you just need an outside perspective (sounds familiar, right?).

This all resulted in me making subtle changes to my daily life. After a few weeks of struggling to get up early, it started to become habitual and I had my first full week of training since I started my internship. I also began changing environments based on the type of work I needed to be doing. Furthermore, I started using the matrix to determine the priority of my tasks and dedicating more time to my thesis. I also started forcing myself to write a certain number of words for my thesis everyday, just to get my thoughts on paper. All these subtle changes boosted my productivity and made me write the first 2000 words of my thesis, while also increasing my productivity at my internship. Because I was more productive, I could actually feel good taking my necessary breaks.

I am very proud about how I handled this failure. Looking at the person who I was five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to fail and ask others for help. I would have kept my failures for myself trying to portray an image of strength and success. I would have let my inaction fester until a point of no return, at which I would drop out. Seeing my personality change in action gives me a truly newfound sense of confidence, which I would love to pass on to everyone around me by saying: be honest and vulnerable, it will only help you move forward!




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