Commentary: Internships prove invaluable for students

Spinnaker

By day, I was a professional reporter for the Florida Times-Union, attending press conferences and conducting interviews with the wealthy and influential of Jacksonville.

You could find me feverishly taking notes with a voice recorder by my side and snapping candid photos with a camera probably worth more than my car.

And even after Florida’s governor shook my hand and respectfully introduced himself as “Charlie,” I could never shake the feeling I was still that little girl playing dress-up, just pretending to be a professional.

By night, I was back to being your typical college student, who loves staying up until ungodly hours of the night, with little intention of attending class in the morning.

Living this double life is anything but easy and might seem deceptive to the casual observer, yet ironically it is exactly what UNF expects of all its students.

OK, maybe not partying like it’s 1999 and skipping class more often than attending, but rather taking part in an internship, when everything your professor said during class finally makes sense.

Internship. That dirty little word invented by universities to force their students into unpaid or might-as-well-be-unpaid labor.

As if college students weren’t already broke enough, now they’re forced to spend their time and effort for nothing, if not pennies in return?

But before you start organizing riots over this seemingly governmental conspiracy, allow me to
let you in on a little secret most professors prefer their students not to know.

Post-graduation, on that day when you stride into your potential employers’ office with a confident smile and knocking knees, he or she isn’t going to care if you stayed up all night studying for the exam that earned you an A rather than a C.

Your future employer is going to worry more about your ability to handle real-life situations, your experience on the field and your proven successes. Because the more experience you have, the less money the company will have to invest toward training costs.

And it makes complete sense.

After all, how many college graduates have you met who seemed like they shouldn’t have even passed high school? And likewise, how many intelligent, successful people do you know who have never spent a day in college?

As more and more Americans realize the importance of education, the college diploma is becoming the new high school diploma.

What makes applicants stand out among the rest is not merely being able to pass a college exam, but rather their active participation in the career field they are interested in pursuing, which proves their passion for the field.

Although students are forced to wait until their senior year to earn school credit for the final internship project, they shouldn’t wait to seek opportunities for any experience, however insignificant it might seem.

Don’t feel a false sense of security meeting university graduation requirements with only one – if any – internships under your belt. A potentional future employeer will never be impressed by the bare minimum.

E-mail April Schulhauser at [email protected]