Where have you interned?” everyone wants to know, because today internships have become a prerequisite. An internship is basically an on-the-job training in any field of work, and could last from anywhere between a week and six months. Students can choose to intern in an organisation just for the experience, but sometimes a small stipend is paid, especially if it’s not on home ground.
Annjana Ramesh, a third-year ECE student at SSN College of Engineering, Chennai, went to the UK in June 2011, to intern for four weeks with Newton’s 4th, a company that deals with electronic instruments. “It (internship) was a great learning experience and I got to actually see and understand how an instrument is designed from scratch. What I didn’t get the hang of in college was put in better focus, and the work I did at the company helped me with my coursework,” says Ramesh. Jolene Fernandes interned with a freelance photographer in May 2010, as part of her media studies course. “Working under someone is a whole new experience. The internship influenced what I wanted to do later in life. Though very little of what we learn in college is actually useful on the field, it’s a great chance to acquire new skill sets,” she says.
Then, there is the third kind of intern. This is the student who does not have to do an internship, does not want to intern in her own field of study but chooses instead, to intern at an organisation that is unrelated to her course. One such youngster is Varsheeni Raghupathy, an engineering student, who took up a cultural exchange internship in Indonesia through AIESEC. She spent a month in the archipelago interacting with students from various countries, making presentations in local schools about their respective cultures and visiting children in orphanages. That one month she believes, exposed her to pressing issues in the world, and made her understand that knowledge can be gained outside of books. “Meeting new people and living on my own has boosted my confidence, increased my tolerance level and made me more independent,” says Raghupathy.
It is a wonder though, how these students got their internships. Granted that there are several ways to acquire an internship — the internship cell or the faculty of a college would be of great help in procuring internships. Most companies and organisations now put out a call for summer and fall interns, making it simpler for those who want to apply. The websites that compile and keep a constantly updated list of internships around the world are a true blessing for internship hunters! Says Rishabh Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Letsintern, “Internship is the first step you take to a lifelong career. The earlier you take it, the better it exposes you to the world of your work; its positives, negatives and what it takes to survive and succeed.” Portals like letsintern.com (Read ‘We follow these’ for more), reduce search costs and democratise opportunities by bringing it to a free platform, thereby allowing students to browse through hundreds of opportunities from the comfort of their homes.
From all the interns’ encounters, it is obvious that internships help in more ways than one. For starters, it is an insight into how work in their chosen field of study will be like. It therefore gives them a chance to decide what to pursue. Also it puts knowledge gained in the classroom to practice, provides space for networking and meeting the bigwigs. One can even make some money as an intern! Says Mathivanan Rajendran, artistic director, Stray Factory Entertainment, “It’s mutually beneficial — the interns gain work experience, and we get work done. The great thing about interns is that they bring in lots of energy and fresh ideas.”
The perks of an internship are many. Internships make students more employable. This is also the premise on which college curriculums insist on internships. A Poorani, head of the visual communication department at Ethiraj College, Chennai, says, “The classroom has its limitations. Also, nothing equals an industry experience — it is where students apply
their theoretical knowledge to gain technical expertise.”
Internship is a chance to taste the ice cream to decide if you like it enough or not. It promises good experience and great learning. So motto for this year: Education is required, experience as an intern, more so.