I just counted.
I’ve been an intern 9 times. 6 of those without pay. 3 of those for more than 40 hours a week.
In college because I was an elementary education major, internships or practicums were part of the requirement. As I rushed between classes and fulfilling the 20 hour practicum requirement, I was frustrated by the number of tickets I received finally explaining to the campus police that there was no feasible way that I could mark in my assigned parking lot and make it to class and to the classroom for my internships. No day passes they explained, but I could change my parking sticked permanently if I wanted, so I did and walked half a mile to my campus apartment everyday so that I could complete my internships.
When I was a senior and my fellow seniors were enjoying their last days as college students with their light loads and tons of free time, my cohort and I were driving sometimes 3 hours a day to work as teachers. 40 hours a week, plus commuting, plus grading and planning and class. In addition, to pay for the gas and food I had to take on a tutoring job and work as a RA for my apartment building. There were many nights I would close the RA office at 12 and wake up at 4:45 am to get to school an hour away on time. There was one week I slept 18 hours for the whole week, so that I could complete my internship.
When I went to work as a English Teaching Assistant in Germany, the story was the same. Many hours. Set stipend. Add more jobs. All so that I could complete my internship.
When I returned from Germany, I worked as a UELIP intern in DCPS. I paid rent and bought groceries and paid for gas even though I wasn’t earning a cent in my 60 hour a week internship. I remember walking in my first day and my supervisor saying, “Thank goodness, the summer interns are here. We can actually get caught up.” Great for them, but overwhelming for me. But I did it, finding extra jobs all so that I could finish my internships.
You get to a point where you begin to question whether the idea that if you get a good internship, you will get a good job and be promoted because of the experiences and the connections you have made can in any way be true.
Then, I decided to switch tracks and pursue ministry. In other words, all those internships, all those hours, all those oatmeal meals, counted for nothing. I was going to have to start all over.
I’m two internships into this career path and I’m finding the same thing to be true. When you are labeled “intern,” people just expect that you can add items to your to-do list because you received a stipend. You’ve been paid, so what’s the problem? The problem is this. I’m going to school full-time, working another job and working this internship and still have to take out student loans and use every bit of credit I can find to make ends meet. Even though you don’t understand that and don’t see me, I will still do my best work even if it’s more than we initially agreed upon and way, way more work and time than you think it is, all so I can finish the internship.
And so that I can finish internships forever.