Not every student can manage having an internship – and that’s OK

It seems like just about every GW student has an internship.

Most students know someone who was an intern on Capitol Hill, worked at a big-name corporation or even walked the dogs at the White House. And there’s nothing surprising about the multitude of internships students here seem to have – internships are great ways to network, pad students’ resumes and are abundant in D.C. And GW prides itself on how many students have internships.

But interning isn’t possible for every student. For students with full academic schedules, necessary part-time jobs and little financial freedom, accepting an internship during the academic year would be overwhelmingly stressful. And when it comes to the summer internship search, it’s harder for those who live in rural areas where there is little likelihood of finding an internship in a specific field. Students who fall into either of these categories should focus on building relationships with professors and excelling in their courses, which doesn’t seem like something officials and peers usually encourage as much as they do scoring internships.

As a student majoring in political science, finding a summer internship anywhere near my hometown of Omaha, Neb. is tough. Though my community might be rich in internships or job openings in business and agriculture, finding an impactful summer internship in politics or journalism isn’t easy.

To the University’s credit, there are opportunities to receive grants that fund unpaid internships. The Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund allows students with unpaid internships to receive up to $3,000 funded by alumni donations. But these grants are only available for students who have “necessarily unpaid” internships – meaning that the employers or organizations do not have the funds to pay interns.

Though it is great that GW has created programs to make accepting unpaid internships easier for students, the pressure for students to take internships regardless of whether they’re paid or unpaid is far too great that even organizations around D.C. have noticed. Pay Our Interns, a nonpartisan group, has made a call for internship programs in D.C., especially ones on Capitol Hill, to start paying interns. Hopefully, this will cause paid internships to eventually replace unpaid ones, but for now some students still cannot afford to accept unpaid internships.

But acknowledging the obstacles in getting an internship, like geography when I’m at home, or my budget, due to the increasing amount of unpaid internships, has made it easier for me to find other ways to succeed. There are multiple events throughout the school year, hosted by either the University or by a student organization, that are open to all students and allow for both learning and networking. These opportunities, though not as long-term as internships, still allow students to build on their knowledge and meet people in their fields. GW is also full of fraternities, sororities and professional Greek organizations with strong networking circles. Students should take advantage of the variety of organizations and programs that the University has to offer, whether it’s joining a multicultural organization or becoming involved in student government.

And it doesn’t hurt to spend some extra time at your professors’ office hours to build relationships with experts in your desired field. In fact, professors should be one of the first resources for students who need career advice or academic tips, or who want to find networking events. You never know when a paid research opportunity will come up or when you’ll need a strong recommendation letter, so building relationships with professors is advantageous and comes at no extra cost.

GW students are in the prime location to explore all the opportunities that D.C. has to offer. But students that may not have the time or money to take those chances should not feel limited or ashamed. Instead, they must push to make the University, and all that it offers, work with and for them during school and past graduation.

Renee Pineda, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

 

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