Technically, I had three internships during grad school. All three were in VERY different areas of student affairs, but one really just felt like an extension of my assistantship, so I tend to not count it.
One of my internships was with an office at a college that provided services to people with a range of…I’m going to say needs because I dislike the term “disabilities”…including test-taking accommodations (extended time, readers or writers, etc), note takers, physical accommodations (arranging for a private bathroom or ground level room), and many other things. I loved the work that the office did…the only thing was that I didn’t do enough of it! Shortly before I came on board, the director of the office left, so there were some transitional issues in the office. I don’t think the interim supervisor was ready to take on an intern and as a result, there really weren’t too many projects for me to work on. A lot of the time, I would just assist in whatever area needed help. One day I wrote someone’s test answers because the student had broken their arm in a snowboarding accident. I took on a LOT of tasks meant for student workers. I also did not have much interaction with students…something I really wanted seeing as I was going into student affairs!
Luckily, I wasn’t the only student in my program with internship issues. I think a lot of us didn’t realize that since these internships were meant for us to learn something, we could ask our supervisor to assign us tasks that would help us grow and develop the skills we wanted. As I went looking for my third internship, I thought about what I didn’t like about the past two…and yes I’m saying two because I really didn’t like that my not-really-an-internship didn’t teach me anything that I wasn’t taught due to my assistantship. Also, it was getting closer to graduation and I was beginning to think of what sort of job I wanted after graduation. I made sure to look for things that I knew were going to help me out.
This last internship was in a student activities office. I focused mostly on the “fun” stuff, like events and Greek life. There were multiple professionals working in the office, so even though I had one direct supervisor, I got to work with a lot of people! It was completely the opposite of my previous experience. The very first day I was there, one of the office workers walked me around campus, both to give me a tour and to introduce me to other campus administrators. The nature of my work had me interacting with students more frequently, but to provide even more chances for interaction, I wound up moving my “office” location so students could pass by and say hi. I was a much happier person at this internship!
Some tips when you are looking for an internship…
Ask your potential supervisor what type of projects he or she has in mind for you! You don’t want to be viewed as just an office assistant that is going to make copies and file things.
Tell your potential supervisor about some things that you would like experience with. Some might be projects you can do on your own, others might be things you’d assist with. Is he or she open to helping you get these experiences?
What are some things that you will NOT do? One of my internships (guess which one) was something that I absolutely did not want to do. I took it just to have something to do. I’m sure if I had tried harder, I could have found something else. OR I could have spoken to my supervisor about what I wanted to get out of it. While I didn’t want to be an RD for the summer, I could have thought of some projects that I was interested in.
How have your internships gone? What are the most valuable things you’ve learned from them?