Students and Internships: How Important Are They?

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Ashley De Shields

For all college students looking to work for a large company, or who have dreams of making big bucks, there is one thing they always make sure they do: they become interns. Internships have now become a social or cultural mandate for a majority of the student population across the country, according to collegeview.com. Family members, teachers, friends, and anyone who cares about students, will often advise them to get internships if they have not already started to look for them, from their late sophomore year of college. The trend is that students should have completed at least one, or be in the middle of an internship, by their senior year. When they graduate, they will head out into the job market with an internship that not only looks good on a resume, but will have provided in-depth experiences, ideas, and skills applicable to common business practices.

 

Professor Amy Freedman, the chair of the Political Science Department, and Professor Oscar De Rojas have set up a program that helps political science and international studies majors find internships at the United Nations, either with NGOs or with UN organizations. Freedman explains her stand-point on internships as “The hope is having an internship that builds a student’s resume and builds work credentials. The value of an internship is it also gives students a wide range of knowledge that they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. The internships students get at the UN open the doors to all kinds of agencies. Also the utilities are twofold: one is concrete skills, dress, and social cues such as speech and behavior, and computer skills; the less obvious benefit is the knowledge that is gained.”

 

In the past, businesses often didn’t know how much students could handle and didn’t give them much to do other than “busy work.” “However this has changed in recent years, and student interns are doing more than Xeroxing and coffee runs; they are writing briefs, and organizing events. These are tasks that many internships may have and the idea is developing writing skills for a job, not a grade.” says Professor Freedman. The skills people learn while interning are also transferable regardless of what type of internship one has. In many cases, interning helps people grow as a person, not just as a student. The affect an internship has on a student varies and it also pertains to what the person is studying.

 

Kathleen Joyce, a Senior Journalism major, who began an internship at Newsday in September said, “I’ve learned a lot of things. I work for the online editions of Newsday and I learned how organized and how massive the Newsday office is. The amount of work these writers and editors put into their work is admirable. Learning the programs that are used to write the stories/update the webpage was hard at first, but it got easier and easier. Now I have a real love for journalism, and although I did before, I have more of an interest now. I also became so much more responsible. I’m not being paid for the internship, so I had to cut back on my spending, but I think it will be worth it in the end.”

 

William Lindberg, a Graduate student and Political Science Major said, “I was a summer intern for the Caribbean Community at the UN.  Professor Oscar De Rojas helped me find Noel Sinclair. The internship was a great experience and I strongly felt that I improved my research and writing skills. Furthermore, just by being at the UN and learning how its bodies work will be valuable for a potential future UN career. It also connects you to other organizations that one may find

very interesting. There are so many different branches linked to the UN that there is something for everyone with any interest or focus.”

 

Another Post student, Anne Winberry, who is a senior Journalism major said this of her experience: “Long Island Radio Group consists of KJoy, B 103, and 94 X. I was their intern for four months and while I was there, I learned how to edit internet clips for their website. I also learned how to put commercials into their system to be broadcasted.  I learned how to get things done much faster, it was a very fast paced environment! I worked for the morning show and things needed to be done immediately.  It definitely helped me grow as a person because I learned how to communicate in an office environment.   I had to be more outgoing; I couldn’t be shy. Also I learned to really take initiative.”

 

All three students agree that their internship experience has helped prepare them for what they want to do for a career. Internships often act as the building blocks for a person’s career, and provide them with specific skills that may be necessary in their job field. Journalists who ultimately want to write for a newspaper need to use special programs to write their articles so they can be laid out for a printed paper, or uploaded to an online source. When asked if she felt she was being prepared for her career, Joyce said, “I think I definitely am. I learned what a newsroom looks like, how these writers/editors/employees interact, how fast they get a story and write it, and the whole wide world of journalism that exists out there. Anything can be made into a story; you just need to find that value that makes it interesting. I absolutely want to write for a newspaper in my career, any newspaper, Newsday especially. The people are nice, the work is over-the-top but I like challenges, and everyday there’s always a new story to work on, so it gets more and more interesting.”

 

Many students wonder how many internships they should do during their college career, or where to do them. Everyone has a different answer because there are different perspectives, and again it depends on the field a student is going into. Professor Freedman kindly gave her perspective on the idea: “I don’t think there is a magic number, but if students have a summer or part-time job, it will count as well. If a student is interested in International Relations or Development, an overseas internship will help. For Development, it is very important to get in the field and do hands-on work, students need the time on the ground.”

 

Internships can not only help students develop the skills they need for their career but may also help them decide on what they really want to do with their lives. Growing up or sitting in a class-room, you may have an idea of doing something, but no tangible experience as to what it is really like. Professor Freedman might not have studied Political Science if she didn’t do an internship. She says, “When I was young I wanted to be in the Music Industry. I spent some time working for Spin Magazine and RCA. While I was there, I realized I really didn’t like it. Internships can help students know what they don’t like too.” Students may find they like planning events for organizations, rather than working for an organization. Today there is an entire industry built around event planning. It might be a direction change for many, but who knows, they may be happier in the end doing something they love.

 

All in all, internships are important in so many aspects and they may help shape one’s future. They are great experiences and few people have regrets about doing them.  In today’s competitive global market for jobs, internships have become the thing that give people an edge over their competition. Students should give one a try; the benefits out-weigh the costs, and the knowledge gained is very useful, and not confined to a class-room.

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