Internships during the School Semester: the Challenges and Outcomes

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Written by Mina Seo, Haas UG Blog Writer 

Last semester, I worked for a marketing company, while also taking on 19 units. This was extremely challenging but fulfilling and would have to be one of the hardest semesters that I’ve taken on. But my experience overall was full of learning and growth – I learned more about marketing through the internship than I did through classes and large lecture halls. I learned that time management, my best friend, didn’t include time needed for eating. I learned how to sleep while standing up on BART. But most of all, I learned that internships during the semester are largely equivalent to a full time job, minus the salary and benefits. For those considering working as an intern during the school semester, I recommend these tips below to help you juggle school, work, and social activities.

Too Many Activities, Not Enough Time

I have always been a busy body, always thinking of things to do, and finding ways to do them. I was never one to stand still. But interning 10 hours, working a work-study job for 10 hours, participating in club activities, and taking classes 18 hours a week took a toll on me. I was always in a rush to do things. I would sometimes give up work-study hours so that I could get more interning hours. I barely had any time to study.

To combat this, I decided to reduce my participation in club activities. Most of my college career has been about doing things I wanted to do now, but now I had to focus on what I wanted to do in the future. Because of that, I dropped my dance team club, so that I could study and develop my professional career. This helped me improve my time management. I was still involved in other clubs that didn’t require much time commitment, like the Korean American Student Association, so dropping dance didn’t leave a huge hole in my heart.

Adjusting to the New Schedule

Since I’ve never worked in the City before, it was extremely hard for me to get the hang of things. I struggled to wake up, go to work, and do just about anything for the first few weeks of the semester. I was extremely excited, but I was also extremely tired from the new adjustment. That was why I made my planner my best friend. It told me anything and everything I needed to know in order to do things on time. I adjusted my schedule and such to accommodate the new changes.

Expect Overtime

One thing that really affected my time was that I had to work outside of my assigned work schedule. For someone extremely clueless about traditional work culture, I realized that the hours they tell us are only the bare minimum. I had to attend events for work every week, sometimes every two weeks, because one, I wanted to, and two, I had to. People who went above and beyond got the most out of the internship, and I wanted that same experience. It was challenging to say the least. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the learning that came from putting in the extra time.

Don’t Go Through the Motions

After working for a while, it can get really easy to find a nice routine to the weekly schedule, and it is also really easy to settle. People can burn out and just do exactly what the supervisor wants them to do, but it is important to enjoy and find innovative ways to do work. My experience at my internship was extremely fun. I did something new each week, even if the assignments were largely the same. Whether it was to search for events or call potential organizations to promote something, every assignment was a new mission that I had to fulfill.

It’s Your Decision

I believe that any experience, good or bad, can be beneficial in the long run. I found out that the industry that my company focused on was not something I would do in the future. It was extremely fun doing all the things I did, but I felt that my efforts could be spent on something I loved, rather than on something I was only slightly interested in. The company culture at the internship was perfect. It was casual and relaxing. I definitely want to work somewhere that shares those values.

This article has largely been about my experience interning during the semester. If some of these things don’t apply to you, then that’s ok! Although summer is a great time to intern, it is still a great feat to be able to work during the semester while juggling a full time student work load. I recommend anyone to intern for at least one semester during the academic year. If you hate your internship, be glad that you’re only spending a maximum of 10-15 hours with the company. If you love your internship, add more hours and devote your time outside of your intern hours.  Like I’ve said before, experience is really important to narrowing down what career to go to. Through any internship, good or bad, experiences like this are there to help you grow.

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