Exactly one year ago I sat down to write an article for the summer edition of Pipe Dream, titled, “The simple life: summer camp moments.” As one would assume, it was about the innocence of childhood seen through my eyes — those of a camp counselor and newly established college student somewhere between a world filled with imagination and a world grounded by reality.
My days were filled with observing the trials and tribulations of eight-year-old girls, the most significant being underwater handstand competitions. Because my campers’ most momentous events seemed so trivial to my maturing life, at the end of the summer, I felt quite unfulfilled. While many kids my age were interning for New York State Senators, accounting firms and high-end publishing companies, I was still a lame, unsuccessful camp counselor.
Following along with societal demands, I was determined to find myself an internship for the summer of 2012. And here I am this summer, interning for a well-known and reputable company. While there is no denying that this internship will certainly prepare me for the harsh business world, I am embarrassed at how hastily I negatively defined the values of being a camp counselor, and how I too eagerly jumped into a world that I’m not yet ready to commit to.
Why is it so imperative to give up summers of being role models to young kids, teaching them to dance despite their lanky limbs and instilling in them the confidence to sing with cracking voices in front of peers?
Not only should the aforementioned be significantly more respected, but the excessive pressure to put an internship down on the resume should be considerably lessened.
The characteristics of most internships — eight-hour days, five-day work weeks, minimal to no pay — appeal only to a select group of financially well-off students. The majority of the student population cannot afford to work for free, and they shouldn’t have to. I am proud to be working for a company that adheres to all of the laws regarding internships, but there are far too many that don’t.
According to the United States Department of Labor, there is a six-point checklist for determining the legality of unpaid labor. Although one of the points is that “the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern,” many companies have their interns performing crucial and time-sensitive work to receive nothing but the “experience” in return.
In a New York Times article published on May 5, 2012, Steven Greenhouse wrote, “While unpaid post college internships have long existed in the film and nonprofit worlds, they have recently spread to fashion houses, book and magazine publishers, marketing companies, public relations firms, art galleries, talent agencies — even to some law firms.”
According to The Economic Policy Institute, the variety and popularity of unpaid internships has substantially increased in the last few years, giving college graduates an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
With the prospect of acquiring a paid job post-college so slim, such internships are seen as the gateway to landing a first job. But even that transition cannot be guaranteed. So why rush the stress? If it weren’t for society’s ridiculous pressures, there’s no summer I’d rather have than a simple one.