Internships are supposed to be exciting.
For a lot of programs, including mine, it’s a rite of passage. An internship gets us one step closer to our career path into the real world. Entering into the real world, in my case, is an unpredictable path. It’s well known that the field of journalism is precarious.
But, us J-School students do it anyway; not because we entirely want to, but because we have to.
We’ve been told since day one, that an internship is the best way of getting into our competitive industry.
It’s where you make connections, learn how to stand out, and just maybe get a job out of it. For journalism internships we usually work 9 to 5 alongside industry professionals. But the major downside? It’s typically unpaid.
While I was lucky enough to have an internship that was worthwhile in my field, meaning I was able to actually work on journalistic content for my professional portfolio, a lot of students aren’t so lucky.
I’ve heard of friends that were asked to do the dirty work, like coffee runs, or grabbing groceries and wardrobe changes, which doesn’t benefit you or your portfolio.
But, even though I was able to do actual journalism at my internship, working 10 to 6, Monday to Friday without pay hurt me financially.
My internship was six weeks long and I normally worked from 10 to 6, but some days it would be 9 to 6, or 8 to 5, or 10 to 7. It depended on the day, and especially with a placement in journalism, it was very unpredictable.
Due to this high demand of time dedicated to my internship, I had to put my part-time job, and my main source of income, on the backburner in order to focus on my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I was better off financially because I didn’t have to do my internship outside of Ontario, like some of my friends. However, I still had to pay for my commute with gas, which got difficult with no source of income.
I became constrained financially, and had to rely heavily on my parents.
I was raking in an average paycheque of $60 weekly, with a $178.78 weekly car payment, $291.97 monthly insurance, a $40 phone bill, and almost $80 of gas a week. Those were just the basics, not including food and coffee, and a social life.
To be blunt, my internship made me broke, and I was working twice as hard as I was for my paid job.
According to data collected from University Affairs in 2018, the Canadian University Consortium report found that 56 per cent of Canadian students were doing some sort of co-op, practicum or internship as part of their program.
In another study conducted by Abacus Data this year, it was found that 57 per cent of students said they had an unpaid internship in their field.
While I’m lucky to have support from my parents, OSAP didn’t give me enough to support my expenses for my placement. Not to mention the fact that OSAP gave me a total of $230 for the semester, which doesn’t even cover the “cost” of the internship course itself.
I think internships are really important to a person’s knowledge of a field, and in my case it was a good experience. However, students are broke.
Students have loans to pay off, and most of us struggle to stretch the income they get from their part-time jobs while balancing school.
We are doing real work for real people and real companies. So shouldn’t we get some real sort of payment for it?