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The Necessary Evil of Internships

After recieving the news that I was accepted as a summer intern at my hometown paper, The Harrisburg Patriot News, family and friends all wished me well.

And at first, it felt good.

An internship with the Patriot News came with a plethora of positive benefits. Besides the experience that would polish some of my writing skills and beef up my resume, my grandfather covered Penn State football for the Patriot for over 30 years. And even in a business that has changed drastically since Poppy started, there were still some people who knew him from the good old days.

Another positive was that I would be getting paid for working there. For those of you who have been through the process of searching for internships, you know that finding a paid internship is quite a feat these days (not to mention it was only 20 minutes away from my house).

The bonus – the icing on the cake, if you will – was that the Patriot had just won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case. To sum it all up — I would be spending the summer getting paid to gain great journalism experience from a paper that my grandfather worked for that was fresh off a Pulitzer Prize and national prominence.

Those positives blinded me from one crucial fact: It was an internship.

The experience that I gained and the connections I made this summer are undeniable. It came at a price because, as an intern, you are treated like an employee, but really, you’re not.

Without diving too far into specifics, they got their money’s worth out of me this summer. I was put into positions where I had to adapt before realizing what was going on. I had to agree to responsibilities that I knew weren’t mine. Not because I was forced to, but because I needed a foot in the door. I needed people to know that I’m a worker and I can, as one adminstrator said, “roll with the punches.” And there were plenty thrown this summer.

This isn’t going to be a post about my complaints or grievances with the internship because I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten the position. But as I catch my breathe for the first time this summer, I realize that I learned invaluable lessons that exceed the importance of AP style and objectivity.

I learned that, intern or no intern, you can’t lose yourself among the office politics. There are no apologies necessary for being yourself. Be nice and respectful while your on the job, and if you want to kiss some ass then, by all means, pucker up. But when you feel like something isn’t right or that you’ve been taken advantage of, you have to speak up for yourself.

Yes, you are the intern, but most of the time the company you commit to for that period of time really needs you. And when you deal with a problem or concern, do it the right way. Take it to the right people and speak to them in the right tone of voice.

The company shows its true colors through the way it handles an employee’s problem or concern.

And you, too, find out what you’re truly made of through the way you handle the good and the bad of a challenging internship.

About the Author

Shawn Christ

I am a junior majoring in print journalism. I am American. I am a Lion.


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Staff Picks: Grabbing A Drink With A Prominent Penn Stater

If you had the chance to hear about Penn State from (or throw down at a State College bar for a night with) some of its most prominent figures, who would you want to grab a beer with?

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