Monday, March 18, 2013

Unpaid Internships

As I began my quest to secure 300 hours of internships before June 2014 graduation, I will be completely honest with you, my first thought was MONEY. Are these internships paid, or unpaid? Hourly or stipend? The most important question was whether these internships I've been looking for are paid or unpaid, because, let's face it, how else can I afford rent this summer otherwise?

I don't consider myself a money-centered woman, or very materialistic for that matter. But, as you may or may not know, Zach and I have struggled financially during our first year here in Seattle since moving here from the midwest last June. An understandable condition when you consider the fact that we moved out here with practically just the clothes on our backs, no connections, and no jobs. It was a risk we were willing to take for both adventure and personal growth.

So as I rifle through business cards, information sheets, and websites upon websites of student affairs graduate internships, I can't help but have money on my mind. If I'm working so many hours at an unpaid internship, well when will I find the free time to get another hourly PT job in order to keep us afloat?

I know for a fact that there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of other college students and college grads on the internship search with the same concern on their mind. It has made me ponder what their impact is on industries, the economy, and the college student him/herself. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of opinion articles and research studies out there that cover the concept of the internship. A great many of them support unpaid internships, but plenty others disagree with the lack of ethics and accessibility surrounding them.

I personally do not support the idea of unpaid internships, in particular unpaid internships that are 40 hours per week. There is a big difference between a college student interning unpaid just 3 to 14 hours per week to obtain unique career-related experiences and the recent college graduate interning unpaid for 40 hours per week with hardly anything to show for it afterwards.

Let me back up here and clearly indicate that I do understand the importance, value, and unique offerings of unpaid internships. I had an unpaid internship myself during my undergraduate studies. For about 4 months I worked 7 hours per week as an event planner and receptionist for a local mental health clinic.  There, I had the opportunity to network around my college town, gain valuable insight to the mental health field, and interact with seasoned mental health professionals. This internship was a required facet of my Bachelor of Science degree in Community Psychology, and I am glad that it was included in my curriculum. The hours were reasonable, the experience was well worth it, and I learned more than I can ever express.

Undoubtably I will be holding unpaid internships in my future. Right now I am waiting to hear back from a few potential student affairs internship positions for this summer, none of which are paid positions.

I guess my point in all of this is: I do not personally think unpaid internships are good for the individual or the industries they permeate. I think all companies and institutions should value their interns enough to pay them, even if only a stipend. It's more than a matter of monetary compensation for time and effort, but it's also a matter of respect and gratitude. Skyrocketing tuition costs should also be taken into account. With students picking up summer jobs and part-time jobs to offset rising costs of college, where will they find time to pick up an unpaid internship?

An opinion article I came across today reinforced my own opinion on unpaid internships. The article, titled "Unpaid Internships Reinforce American Inequality" (by Clara Ritger) discussed the author's opinion that because students from wealthy families can afford unpaid internships, they are put at a further advantage in the working world than their low-income counterparts, who might not have the option. This is yet another example of institutional/system discrimination that gives the wealthy a leg-up and the low-SES a disadvantage.

It was from Ritger's article where I found out that in 2010 the Obama administration announced plans to crack down on unpaid internships. I wonder where that goal has gone? I certainly haven't heard it discussed by our government recently.

It makes me wonder why there aren't scholarships for unpaid internship opportunities. If the industries and institutions absolutely must continue to offer unpaid internships, there should be opportunities to fund those who wish to pursue them! Just like scholarships, students should be able to apply for aid if they want to accept a rigorous, and/or out-of-state unpaid internship. Wouldn't that be a good idea? Maybe that's my calling. Maybe I'll do something with that someday. I'll let it brew in my mind for a while and come back to it.

I also took a gander at an article titled the The Impact Unpaid Internships Have on the Labor Market from There, I found a section on Best Practices for Internships and I'm determined to keep these in mind as I am pursuing my own internships:

  • "The student's experience with the employer should emphasize unique job or career related activities that the student could not otherwise obtain outside the specific internship.
  • The employer should inform company managers and supervisors of the objectives of the internship program and the presence of the intern.
  • The employer should provide a company and worksite orientation that clarifies internal rules, operating procedures, and internship expectations." 
These might seem quite obvious, but I think they are valuable and applicable to any internship in any field. 

As I continue to evolve my own interest in career education and planning, internship discernment is something I will also continue to think about and consider. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where I'm at now

There are just 2 weeks left of Winter Quarter. Lucky for me, I finished up one of my classes in January (horay for weekend classes!) so for the past few weeks I've been able to focus on the other two classes I'm taking: Higher Education Law and The American Community College.

This quarter has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least. January was absolutely insane with how much I had on my plate, and how much I filled up all of my work and personal calendars. There was International week at SU, events at SSCC, major projects already due, and then I had weekend class to juggle. I don't think hubby or cat saw me much at all in January. But I'm so glad that's over! I have been able to balance everything much better with just two classes, something I plan to continue practicing so long as I'm working full time. Next quarter, I'm only signed up for two, and they are Leadership in Education 1 and Leadership and Governance of Post-Secondary Education.

I just finished up making major progress on a paper (I know I know, it's Saturday night and I'm working on homework, this is my life now) and I'm hoping to accomplish a little bit more before bed. I can't wait to have free time again. As great as this program is, and as much as I'm learning, I need a little bit more freedom and flexibility in my life!

On top of assignments, I'm also anxiously working on securing an internship for the summer. I have a few promising leads, but I'm still waiting on a few responses from a couple institutions. Cross your fingers for me! There's one I'm really hoping to get in LA for 10 weeks in the summertime :)

Aside from grad school, I have been working on my own happiness and personal growth. I've learned a lot about myself from this grad school experience, and it has made me incredibly reflective. I started reading a book called Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh that has been very eye opening to the way I comprehend and express my emotions. Of course, school readings always come first, so it's taking me a long time to finish, but I already know that I'm going to read more of his work. If anyone has recommendations for me about other reads that are similar, I welcome them with open arms!

Zach found it at a used book store for me :)
In other news, I am looking forward to visiting Milwaukee for the first time since December of 2011, and the first time I'll be in one of the houses I grew up in since May 2011! My flight leaves Seattle on March 27th and I don't come back until April 2nd. I just know that no matter how it goes, this trip home will be a grounding experience. Spending time with my roots, re-defining myself, realizing who I am now and remembering who I was then. I especially cannot wait to spend time with my family and get to know them once again. My brothers have changed so much in the past few years... makes me feel quite old and emotional, to be honest.

For my weekend class this quarter, one of our assignments was to bring an artifact that represents our culture. I brought in a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”
Since that assignment, I have been true to my artifact and have been selecting and collecting the words and sentences that in all my readings have been to me like the blast of a trumpet. I started compiling them on a Tumblog called Quotes Etc. I like that I have a place to compile those quotes, phrases, and lyrics that help me better understand and be comfortable with existence.

Right now, I am thankful we have 2 whole days of weekend. Tomorrow is Sunday and that means pancakes and cartoons with my honey!

Our friend Amoolya from college was in Leavenworth  WA to visit some friends for a few days, and we were so excited she had a whole afternoon of free time to visit with us! We took her all over downtown, Pioneer Square, the Waterfront, and the International District.