Before college, I dreaded the idea of having to look for an internship. The thought of going through the process seemed daunting and intimidating. When I got to college, I was convinced that it would not only be difficult for me to find one that I liked, but also one that really prepared me for what I wanted to do. Three years and five internships later, I am happy to say that my preconceived notions of interning were false.
It hasn't always been easy and not every internship I’ve had has been hyper-focused on my interests. However, I am privileged to have had these opportunities as they’ve allowed me to build confidence and assurance in who I am, immerse myself fully into various positions, and most importantly discover what I love and want to continue to pursue in my future.
Interning can be very rigorous, time consuming and draining. I've often worked a 9 to 6 day, having to run back to campus for a meeting or two, and some days don't get home until 10 or later. That being said, only one of my internships has ever paid me enough for me to support myself financially. Unfortunately, the ones that are more in line with what I aspire I do barely pay me at all.
Though I'm fully aware of these underpaid positions before committing to them, I cannot help but think how many people do not have this option. Many of my friends are not able to accept positions that do not pay them enough to provide for themselves. Though having a financially stable job while interning is an option, doing both, juggling school work, and being actively involved in campus activities would be insane.
If we look at this on a broader spectrum, many internships, by not paying their interns, exclude underrepresented and low-income students from having the same opportunities as others. Just because someone has the ability to accept an internship does not mean that another student with the same credentials who does not come from a place of privilege should not have the option to the same positions. By doing this, businesses are ostracizing a large portion of students who do fit into a certain criteria.
It is understandable that many nonprofits and independent businesses cannot afford to pay their interns with more than a small stipend or even at all. However, there are many places that have more than enough funds to provide their interns with a paycheck that do not because they have people privileged enough to work for free. By doing such, businesses can open doors for so many capable students and give them the chance to have the same opportunities as everyone else. This not only benefits the students, but also jobs as it allows more diverse and creative minds to enter the professional work environment on an equal platform.