The Ups and Downs of College Internships

POUGHKEEPSIE, N. Y. –“There is nothing in the world like being on the sideline of an NFL game or being able to casually ask any player what their favorite Netflix show is. Just the other day I got to meet “Taysteé” [Danielle Brooks] from “Orange is the New Black” and I got hit with a ball thrown by Tom Brady—and that’s just a normal game day” said Marist College junior Michaela Landry.

She is working for the New York Jets [a professional American football team] as a Social Media Intern this fall . She has had previous experience in internships such as an international soccer company and a Marist affiliated ESPN show.

Landry’s current internship has both its perks and its costs, she explains. She travels to the New Jersey office twice during the week and to MetLife Stadium on typical Sunday home game days.  The company provides compensation for game day travel as well as free gear and tickets.

“The first game I worked they were able to give me three tickets that were super close to the end zone, and my family was visiting. It’s a good deal.” Landry’s favorite part though is the free meals in the office “with unlimited avocados…I still get excited.” The same feelings aren’t felt when it comes to transportation.

Landry discussed the consequences of the other half of her day. She is originally from California so she has no car or vehicle with her on campus. This internship requires a big commute. “Originally I was just praying teleportation would be invented within the next day,” she said of her transportation concerns.

Although the Jets compensate for the cost of her ride on game days, they don’t for the other two days she is in the office. Landry rents out a Zipcar, a car rental system, that can be found on campus. It allows students to rent it out for periods of time with an hourly rate of $7.50 or $12.

It is a two-hour drive there and two-hour drive back for office days and if she’s “lucky”, as she said, it is an hour and a half both ways on game days. This takes its toll on Landry; “Because of this commute I’ve started listening to podcasts…to entertain myself so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel…I wish I could be getting homework done during that time instead” she said.

Marist senior, Cara Guerin, has had similar transportation concerns to that of Landry.

Pictured: Cara Guerin after interning in NYC on Monday, Oct. 16.

In the spring semester of 2017, Guerin began working as a Product Development Intern for Coach, Inc., a luxury fashion company. She was required to go to New York City three days a week.

 

She felt driving would be more expensive and less efficient, so she decided to take the train into work each week.

This internship was only for credit and they did not compensate for the expenses of the commute, similar to Landry.

Guerin invested in two month passes at the local Poughkeepsie train station. This covered the first two months of the internship, after which she paid per ride for the semester. Guerin paid for the passes, $510 each, herself.

 

 

“It was hard since I wasn’t getting paid, but felt the experience was worth the cost,” she said.

Guerin was able to find a new internship this current fall semester where transportation costs were cheaper than her previous experience.

She now works as a Temporary Production Assistant for Michael Kors, a luxury fashion company. She gets paid minimum wage for this internship.

Only required to go in two days a week, Guerin pays around $90 a week. She is aware but does not qualify for the NYC Commuter Benefits Law, since she is not full-time. This law allows NYC employees to set aside some of their paycheck prior to filing taxes to cover transportation costs.

Other Marist students have had positive experiences from commuting to more local internships.

A Marist alumnus, Adriana Belmonte was a Reporting Intern at The Poughkeepsie Journal, a local newspaper her senior year.

This papers office is about a five-minute drive from the campus. She used Marist’s services to find the internship. After applying on Fox Quest, a Marist career services tool, she was asked for an interview right away.

Overall, she would say her experience was “amazing because I had a lot of published work during that semester, it looked great on my resume and gave me so much confidence in my writing. Even the editor who was my boss commented on how much my writing improved from my first article.”

With all the encouragement and support Belmonte had, she still faced a moral conflict. While she was interning at the paper, they had laid off seven employees, including the Editor in Chief. Being that Belmonte was receiving credit and minimum wage for her 15-hour workweek, she was not concerned about herself being let go.

More so it was how to act that she was unsure of. “I walked in the next morning and it felt like I was at a wake. There was a lot of tension in the room and I didn’t know what to say to anyone,” she said in reference to a usually loud, bustling newsroom.

In a similar light, Guerin faced an ethical dilemma with her time at Coach, Inc. “They aren’t paying me so basically I’m paying them to hire me as an intern. It’s free labor.” she said.

Guerin felt that since she [her parents] was paying for the credit in the semester that it was unfair she was working without pay. Although she willingly and genuinely enjoyed working for the company, she was more in disagreement with the general principle.

The Marist Communication and Media Studies Internship Program Director, Gerald McNulty, objectively discussed this same issue.

“The phrase ‘take advantage of free labor’ is a statement of bias…some students come in and say they expect to be paid, they think working without pay is unfair. Other students complain they are bored at their internship because the experience is little work and mostly ‘shadowing’ and observing.”

He then empathized that as long as it is legal it is okay.

A legal violation that can sometimes be, according to McNulty “ignorantly” or “selfishly” made is the requirement for a company to do at least one of the following: pay a student intern or give them credit for the internship.

Students that are unaware of this law can wind up between some legal trouble with the school and the company. In turn ruining their experience and what was once a reference on their resume.

Other students such as Belmonte get lucky. She was given both credit and a paycheck for her internship. It is a rule that can vary by school but is not restricted by Marist.

Belmonte is now a post-graduate and a paid Editorial Intern for Major League Baseball Advanced Media hoping to be full-time in the near future. She recommends to; “Constantly seek out opportunities…that’s how I’ve gotten so much experience.”

Besides money and credit, the main purpose of an internship is to provide an experience for someone interested in the workforce they are interning in.

In 1979 McNulty was interning for the Associated Press in N.Y. He remembers travelling around the city, riding the subway with Mayor Ed Koch, and meeting top Saudi Arabian diplomats. The FBI even questioned him when he found an extortion note, which later turned out to be a plan for a bombing.

“The effort to get an internship, get to an internship, and work in an internship are all worth it in the end, even if I was getting coffee some mornings,” said Guerin.

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