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A summer of internships or relaxation?

To get ahead at university, you need to stand out. One way of doing that is to build a stellar CV sprinkled with references from internships. But, is wasting your hard-earned summer making cups of tea really worth the pressure and anxiety?

Summer has connotations of being a time of relaxation and relief, and as people who have been in education for most of our lives, we long await the arrival of freedom. Summer is synonymous with laughter and freedom, spending our time surrounded by friends and completely disregarding our studies for those precious couple of months. However, now there is mounting pressure to spend our limited days of freedom shadowing people in internships. We won’t even get paid for many of these roles, and yet the competition for a position is insane, and all for a few lines on our CV.  

Students are put under huge amounts of stress to stand out and get an internship. As soon as we begin a new academic year with hope still in our eyes, our university email is bombarded week after week with job opportunities, grad schemes, and placements. It never ends. It is of course extremely useful for those who are opportunistic and apply for these roles, but for people like myself who are struggling to juggle the world of study and socialising, the thought of an extra job is too much to handle.

Students are put under huge amounts of stress to stand out and get an internship

Entering the third year of university is a terrifying concept and the thought of an internship will be long gone; instead we will be applying for job after job, hoping and praying even for an interview in a place we are interested in. Does an internship really make us stand out from the rest? Of course, it will help, but with many jobs people skills are just as essential. It would be harrowing to think that a job application would be completely disregarded due to an absent week-long summer job if your CV is strong and your personality shines through in an interview.

Overall, I think students are put under huge amounts of pressure to skip through the process of being a student and think about work. Even before we start university we are bombarded with messages that we need to apply for roles and positions when in reality, most work experience we might get at a newspaper or law firm will simply be observing. Does our degree and reading material not already teach us that?

Overall, I think students are put under huge amounts of pressure to skip through the process of being a student and think about work

Perhaps I am overly optimistic that despite my own lack of experience, my degree results and personal skills will secure me a job next year. However, I simply fail to see how the added pressure and anxiety that an internship adds is of any benefit to an employee, let alone myself. Surely it is far more important for students to savour their long 3-month break to rest and recalibrate. This appeals to me more than making cups of tea, which most of us are probably already doing in a part-time job back home whilst earning money – albeit the minimum wage.

In short: are students put under huge amounts of pressure to get a summer internship? Yes, absolutely! If you have managed to obtain yourself a role, you should be incredibly proud of yourself and the reference on your CV will stand out. But, for those who like myself are instead looking forward to a summer of holidays, festivals and relaxation – don’t fret, mental relaxation is essential. After all, getting your degree and staying sane should be given priority over a stellar CV and sleep depravity.

Comments (1)

  • As someone who did 2 summer internships (between years 2 and 3) at the same company and then went into a completely different industry after graduating, I think the key thing is balance here.

    Money was also probably a factor in choosing to return for another internship at my old firm. 3 months is a long time to be without work and given that most internships are only between 6 and 12 weeks (not to mention any pro rated holiday entitlements) many of us could do with the cash to keep us afloat rather than stretch a student loan to last from April to September or have parental support. Equally there are many of us who work locally when at home and the skills gained from those are also beneficial.

    I suspect that those doing internships that are unpaid and/or suffering from a lack of sleep are a minority, whereas many who do have internships aren’t just there to polish their CVs per se – 3 months (not to mention up to an additional 3/4 weeks depending on exam timings) is a long time to be ‘relaxing’ and not having any income from student loans. For me I still had almost a month to myself and the money earned enabled me to still have weekends out and contribute towards my living costs at term time.

    On balance, I still had the summer in first year to myself (few companies do internships at that point) as well as the summer before I started my job after graduating, so I feel like I achieved the right balance for me. For some, working (be it a job at home or an internship) is not really a choice given that we’re adults now.

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