Opinion: Internships have many advantages

My rent was $750 each month. My commute was 45 minutes each direction, which cost about $50 each week. I woke up early and went to bed late. And I had the time of my life learning from people who have changed me forever. Last summer, I had the pleasure of interning in Washington, D.C., more or less the intern capital of the United States. Internships provide an incredible learning experience, a lesson frequently learned too late during college years.

Kirksville summers are fun — I’ll admit that — but an internship has value that shouldn’t be ignored. Start doing internships early during your college career, build on those experiences and there’ll be job options waiting for you after graduation. The common notion is internships mainly are necessities for upperclassmen, but my experiences prove otherwise — I’ve felt underqualified compared to peers who started internships earlier than I did during college. Interning throughout most years of college not only gives you a wider range of knowledge and skills, but also will create connections for potential jobs after graduation.

One of the most obvious benefits of an internship is the networking capability. Coworkers and bosses often are more than willing to go out of their way to help a hardworking former intern, and the impact they have on future job searches should not be underestimated. It’s not just a resume booster, but also a tool for future opportunities. If you have enough good tools, starting a career becomes faster and easier.

While the adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” certainly is true, it’s what you know that will help you stand out. A college education, while invaluable, cannot teach the day-to-day challenges of the work environment, and often fails to emphasize real world skills. An internship can teach you how to work, how to treat others, how to succeed and how to be the best you can be.

Beyond the resume line, internships can be useful when you return to school. An improved work ethic can translate into better grades and taking more interest in classes. Because of my government internship, I have a greater interest in my communication law class — the internship displayed the real life application of what I’m learning in class. The internship has put what I’m learning into context, which makes the class seem more interesting and practical. While internships have incredible potential for future opportunities, let’s not forget they’re a lot of fun as well.

College students spend nine months straight trapped within the boundaries of the classroom, and an internship is an opportunity to break free of those restraints. No late nights at the library or Sunday study sessions — the nine-to-five schedule actually is quite cathartic. Internship schedules are predictable and consistent, which is much more convenient for social activities, unlike work schedules that might change week-to-week.

Like I’ve said, it’s never too early to begin interning. Even if it’s unpaid, it all pays off eventually. Find an opportunity, no matter how big or small, and give it your all.