Students use internships to jump-start careers

The University Career and Community Learning Center offers grants to offset the cost of unpaid internships.

Tricia Michel

Facing a weak job market, many University students try to avoid future unemployment by getting hands-on experience.

Internships, both paid and unpaid, are popular among students who want to pad their resumes and jump-start their careers.

Political science sophomore Alexis Bertsch, who applied for an internship with the Minnesota Senate, said internships are important for networking and finding a job.

Bertsch said the internship provides only a small stipend, so she will struggle to pay tuition and rent in the spring.

Currently, she waitresses at Olive Garden and works at Walter Library for a total work schedule of more than 40 hours per week – leaving little time for class or a social life.

“I don’t sleep; I work and study,” she said. “When I want to hang out with my friends, I have to give something up.”

Bertsch said she will try to juggle both jobs with the internship in the spring.

“School comes first, and if I have to, I’ll quit my job at the Olive Garden and take out more loans,” she said.

Bertsch said because all jobs require experience, the internship is essential for her career.

The University Career and Community Learning Center offers grants for students such as Bertsch to offset the cost of unpaid internships.

The grants are designed to compensate students interning in every department, Career Services coordinator Liz Hruska said.

The College of Liberal Arts awards four to six $1,200 grants each semester, Hruska said. She said the grants are competitive and only available to students working unpaid internships.

Hruska said internships are important resources because they allow students to try different roles in their field before graduating.

Because of this, she said, the University has resources to help students find internships. Each college also has a department-specific career center for students.

But students who do not have time or cannot afford regular internships can sometimes gain experience within the University.

First-year graduate student Sachin Agarwal is a chemical engineering research assistant this semester.

Agarwal said his University internship is paid and does not have a minimum hour requirement.

“It’s the best I can do because I don’t have to put in time apart from my studies,” he said.

Agarwal said his internships will make his job hunt easier when he graduates.

The Career and Community Learning Center also offers a class for students who want to receive college credit for their internships. The class helps students set goals and teaches them how to use internship skills in the work world.