As the fall semester winds down, students are submitting their applications in hopes of scoring their dream internship for the spring. These internship opportunities are spread across the District and are emphasized as one of GW’s greatest selling points. Internship availability was a major factor in my decision to attend GW, but once I got my dream internship I was not able to earn credit because I was required to complete too much work on top of an already time-consuming job.
The Elliott School of International Affairs requires students seeking internship credit to complete an academic project that “bridges the gap” between the student’s international affairs curriculum and their internship work. Students must complete an academic paper and read supplemental materials, in addition to weekly hours at the actual internship. This type of project seems reasonable in theory, but the requirements to earn credit are not.
For each credit hour, a student must write a 10-page academic paper, read at least 100 pages per week on topics relating to their internship and paper and work at least four hours per week at the job. But that is only for one credit hour. If a student wants three credit hours for their internship, they are required to write a minimum 30-page paper by the end of the semester, complete 300 pages of reading per week and work 12 hours per week. The current system in place makes it nearly impossible for students to receive academic credit for their internships. The Elliott School must provide students with a more feasible way to earn internship credit.
Expecting students to read an additional 300 pages on top of a 12-hour workweek is excessive. In my experience, professors try to keep readings to fewer than 100 pages per week for a regular three-credit course – and that is without the internship. Students already work long weeks at their internships between transportation and the actual work assignments, and it is unreasonable for them to complete three times more work than their classmates because they have an internship. Officials are not acknowledging how much time is spent at internships, and in my eyes, that means they are either out of touch with the work required at internships or intentionally want students to struggle to earn credit.
To gain three credits, students are required to work at least 12 hours. But internships often expect more of their interns, scheduling them for 15 to 20 hours per week. Assigning hundreds of pages of reading to students with varying workloads is unfair because the same amount of work is expected of everyone who wants three credits. Officials should also take these differences into account when they mandate a project on top of an internship.
American University offers up to six credits per internship where students can receive credit depending on how many hours they work. The scale starts at one credit for five hours worked per week over a 14-week period to six credits for 30 hours worked per week over a 14-week period. American officials took into account the different minimum hour requirements and accommodated students who work relatively more hours than other interns. Increasing the number of credits students receive based on how often they work is more practical and would decrease stress from students who already struggle to balance work and school.
Georgetown University provides a few courses specifically for students taking an internship. One is a four-credit course for students interning 14 to 16 hours per week in fields relating to government and public policy. The class allows students to seek guidance and conversation about their internships and ask questions about how to make the most out of their opportunity.
At GW, students can take UNIV 2001: Elective Internship, which will be offered next summer. But the course will only count for one credit hour, and it does not count toward graduation. The class is only creating more work for students and not giving them enough benefits for the opportunities they have earned.
While GW prides itself on its internship culture, the University has made it difficult to balance academics with an internship in addition to any other extracurriculars or jobs they may also have. The University is not taking large enough steps to improve this dilemma. GW needs to implement a better system to encourage students to participate in internships while also allowing them to advance academically.
Kris Brodeur, a senior majoring in international affairs and Latin American and hemispheric studies, is a columnist.