Interns are learners, not drones

Students have too much on their minds to take unpaid internships that treat them only as free labor.

Alia Jeraj

I’ve been extremely fortunate to find two incredible internships for myself this year. During an exit interview last semester, I thanked my supervisor for the opportunity, and she explained that she thought the internship was a real learning experience for her interns.
 
 
I was so excited to hear an intern supervisor actually say that about an internship. 
 
 
By law, unpaid internships must be educational, and they must primarily benefit the intern. However, many internship experiences leave interns feeling much less like a student and more like a free laborer. 
 
 
As students, our parents, advisers and professors often tell us to take unpaid or low-paying internships, saying they are a “great experience” to help build a resume. 
 
 
Because of this, many of us choose internships over paid jobs despite the fact that paid gigs help pay for expenses. And so we end up taking an unpaid internship, working another job to supplement our income and attempting to fit in our coursework all at the same time.
 
 
I’m not sure how I feel about the legality of unpaid internship positions. However, if they are going to exist, it’s essential that companies that offer unpaid positions are devoted to actually providing valuable, experiential benefits to their interns. They must view their interns as learners, not just as an extra pair of hands.
 
 
Internships can undoubtedly benefit those who decide to pursue them. However, with students already juggling intense course loads, working multiple jobs and struggling to pay student loans, it’s essential for companies to treat their interns with the respect they deserve as students.
 
 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].
 
I
’ve been extremely fortunate to find two incredible internships for myself this year. During an exit interview last semester, I thanked my supervisor for the opportunity, and she explained that she thought the internship was a real learning experience for her interns.
I was so excited to hear an intern supervisor actually say that about an internship. 
By law, unpaid internships must be educational, and they must primarily benefit the intern. However, many internship experiences leave interns feeling much less like a student and more like a free laborer. 
As students, our parents, advisers and professors often tell us to take unpaid or low-paying internships, saying they are a “great experience” to help build a resume. 
Because of this, many of us choose internships over paid jobs despite the fact that paid gigs help pay for expenses. And so we end up taking an unpaid internship, working another job to supplement our income and attempting to fit in our coursework all at the same time.
I’m not sure how I feel about the legality of unpaid internship positions. However, if they are going to exist, it’s essential that companies that offer unpaid positions are devoted to actually providing valuable, experiential benefits to their interns. They must view their interns as learners, not just as an extra pair of hands.
Internships can undoubtedly benefit those who decide to pursue them. However, with students already juggling intense course loads, working multiple jobs and struggling to pay student loans, it’s essential for companies to treat their interns with the respect they deserve as students.
 
Alia Jeraj
welcomes comments at