Overcoming challenges; How I survived my ACT project
By Nany Engelhardt
Academic Consultancy Training is a great concept; 8 weeks were you work with a team of 5 to 7 students on a real project by actual commissioners, practicing your skills for when you have your MSc and have to go out there in the real world. You get a coach and an academic advisor to guide the process, yet there is something about group work that is always terrifying…Well, I survived. Call it luck or awesome skills, it actually doesn’t matter; this is my tale.
The horror stories about ACT that you hear in the hallways from those that went before you, are anything but amusing. Tension between group members, demanding commissioners, incompetent coaches and picky academic advisors seem to be an essential part of the experience. As a result I was terrified for the group work, had no interest in self-reflection (and definitely not reflection papers) and it was as if the 8 weeks were going to be the closest that I would get to hell on earth.
The first weeks were tough. I chose a Dutch project: Marketing het Groene Hart, a green region in The Netherlands and was in a group of 7. Along the way there were some clashes within the team, since some of us *coughs* had dominant personalities. The project itself, despite being fun to work on, also came with its challenges: how to please the commissioners while maintaining a proper academic level, how to fit in time for self-reflection papers and how to keep focused from 8.30-17.15 for several weeks. So we needed time to adjust to all of this and to each other.
We somehow managed to transform this group of people into a team. Here’s a summary of aspects, beside our own personalities and determination that helped.
- Dinners together (Lunch together once a week, where someone was in charge of bringing delicious snacks also work)
- Clear structure and goal for the project (Like the different lists we made so we knew exactly where we were heading to)
- Giving each other room to be ourselves (Like how patient my team members where when I was constantly taking selfies and filming for my Wageningen University vlogs)
- Having some creative outlets (Like our pet cactus, Henke-Bob, playing hide and seek in Forum and singing K3- you have to look that up; typically Dutch 😉 – )
Flash Forward to the last day of our project, we have been through a lot as a group. Yet we still didn’t want to leave. After the presentation for our commissioners we had a fancy lunch (wine included) at the student café The Spot. We kept thinking of ways to prolong the day, playing video games on the couch, a 7 players ping pong game and what I chose, just lay there on the couch and enjoy the good company. As they kept prolonging the video game and extend the ping-pong game, I already started falling asleep and we were all pretty tired. But we had to keep playing; otherwise ACT will definitely be over.
Luckily I have my vlogs, I documented the whole process, mostly the positive aspects, so it’s easy to press play again. In the end that is the best advice I could give to anyone and also the most important lesson I learned. Teamwork, whether at the university or outside of it, doesn’t only have ups; but if you hold on to them, the lows are easier to bear. Sometimes it is pure luck that decides what hardships come on your way. So safe those good memories and whenever you feel down, just press play again.
On the picture you can admire our Henke-Bob. In the note he (she) is wishing me a happy summer-break and expressing how nice it was working together.
Watch Nany’s vlog below in which she looks back on her Academic Consultancy Training.