The importance of being an intern



Published: 04-09-2017 10:11 PM

Internships are increasingly becoming a required part of the college experience, and many say that’s a good thing.

Through internships, college students gain not only experience to add to their resume but tools to help prepare them for the workforce and the wider world.

“It’s important because it’s about praxis,” said Mary Bombardier, Hampshire College’s assistant dean for community engagement. “They are learning the theory in the classroom and then they are putting it into action as part of a more collective movement.”

Mount Holyoke College’s Jenny Watermill echoed that sentiment, saying that giving students real-world practice with what they are learning in the classroom helps deepen their understanding of their studies.

Watermill is the Mount Holyoke’s associate director for internships and student employment at the Career Development Center.

Another benefit, Watermill said, was that students are allowed to try out a career and see if it is in line with what they are thinking about it in a pretty safe space.

Depending on the college and the student, internships can encompass a wide variety of experiences.

At Hampshire College with its unique structure, students are required to work with the school and wider community through two Community Engagement and Learning opportunities. While the first focuses on the college community itself, the second encourages students to get off campus and address a community-identified need not necessarily related to their major.

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At Mount Holyoke, internships aren’t a requirement for most students, but nonetheless Watermill said by graduation around 70 to 80 percent of students have completed at least one internship.

For Mount Holyoke College student Brittney Nielsen, 22, the college’s alumna network proved invaluable.

Last summer, Nielsen spent six weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on an internship working part-time for two independent business consultants.

“I’ll never forget it. She called me and had so much faith in me as a Mount Holyoke College student that she offered to create an internship opportunity for me,” Nielsen said. The alumna then called a fellow colleague and arraigned a second internship.

“It was so moving that they believed so much in me without even meeting me,” Nielsen said.

At the end of last school year, Nielsen was faced with a choice between two internships.
One would relate closely to her French major and future aspiration of becoming a French teacher; another was business-focused.

With the help of the schools alumna network and guidance from the school’s Career Development Center, Nielsen said she was able to choose the internship that was best suited for her.

“I thought that my internship in business didn’t necessarily apply to what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “But it was so meaningful to my personal and educational growth.”

Through the internship, Nielsen said it instilled a lot of confidence in her and taught her how to be more articulate and act as a representative. She is now in her last semester at Mount Holyoke College and is a double major in French and psychology.

While Nielsen is finishing up her studies, two Hampshire College students were able to translate their internships into full-time jobs after graduation.

In his second year at the college, Alex Emmanuele, 22, said he found his passion for learning and education. After reading the school’s institutional strategic plan, Emmanuele reached out the consulting firm.

“It turns out the owner and proprietor of the firm had two close relatives both go to Hampshire,” he said. “It was an instant connection there. It was a good match right off the bat.”

Emmanuele said he researched what the company, Keeling & Associates, was about and then pitched them an idea to invest more time and effort into better communicating who they are and what they do.

At Hampshire, the college stresses the importance of co-curricular learning experiences and encourages its students to get out into the community.

Even when one gets an internship, Emmanuele said, they shouldn’t stop hustling.

“Just because you get an internship doesn’t mean you don’t stop trying, improving and proving to everyone how capable you are,” he said. “Same thing as a job. You can’t ever stop and be complacent where ever you are.”

Having an internship was a “hugely transformational experience,” Emmanuele said.

“It’s just a very strong, impactful way that you can take your learning and experiment with it,” he said. “Experiment with your thoughts and your ability to have deep conversation with people and help change people’s lives.”

Growing up in Stamford, Connecticut, Sal Migliaccio, 24, had been aware of the work that Americares did.

In his last year at Hampshire College, Migliaccio used his year-long independent research project to dive deeper into emergency response and the field within public policy. Having already interned with Americares, Migliaccio continued his internship after a different opportunity fell through.

“I feel like I got really lucky. I didn’t expect that my internship was going to lead to a job but it did. I know that it doesn’t happen for everyone but it shows what could happen,” he said. “If you don’t get a job directly from where you interned, it’s still a really valuable experience that you can transfer somewhere else.”

Migliaccio said to be a successful intern, people should look into organizations or companies that share their same interest.

“That is really how interns can be successful,” he said. “Finding something they are interested in and getting work experience around that.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at