Since I started Kabibo, I've had several people ask me if the internships are paid. And with good reason! Who wants to work for free...that's crazy?! Believe me, I can sympathize! I was once a go-abroader...I studied, I interned, I worked...I understand the struggles of money and needing it, but there's something I think needs to be talked about - the purpose of an internship.
Why do we intern? The answer is, to get experience. While we may have taken plenty of courses in a certain subject and have been learning about it for years, that doesn't trump actually putting that knowledge to work. This was never more clear to me than when I learned Spanish. Just like a lot of people, I took classes in high school, then I took classes in college. I declared a Spanish minor, but could I speak a lick of Spanish? NO! It was ridiculous! (In all fairness it did give me the grammatical understanding and basic vocabulary I needed.) It wasn't until I spent a semester in Chile that I actually achieved the ability to speak in full sentences. Then it took several more long-term trips to Spanish-speaking countries before I really become fluent. We must put our knowledge to practice.
So, why don't most companies want to pay us as interns? Because we don't know what we're doing yet, and often times interns are more work for a company than they are help. It takes a good deal of time for a company to prepare for and train a new intern, not to mention the time it takes for us to get acclimated, understand our work duties, and finally become productive, only to leave a few months later.
Then why do companies let us intern? So, if all we have is classroom knowledge and we're an extra burden to the company, why would they want to waste their time with us? Because they know the value of hands-on experience! They have been students, interns, rookie employees, and now they are experienced professionals that know the process required to be successful. Not only that, but they recognize the opportunity in it for them! While traditional hiring practices only require an interview or two to get hired, an internship allows them to evaluate us, our work ethic, and our ability for an extended period of time and determine if we are a good fit for the company as a future employee.
Internships are education! As I mentioned earlier, one of the first questions people like to ask when I tell them about Kabibo's internships is, "Are they paid?" Well, no, and here's why - internships are meant to be an educational experience. Somehow over time the understanding of an internship has shifted from a learning experience to work, and now interns want to be paid. This is like asking to be paid a wage for going to college! An internship is meant to be the practical application component of our educational experience, and in my opinion, should be required for graduation (which is becoming the case in more and more universities all the time.) Let me give you an example - In order to learn how to ride a bicycle, one can first read about how to ride a bike - how the bike works, how to balance, and how to pay attention to their surroundings, but who can actually know how to ride a bike without riding one? And who is going to get paid for riding a bike if all they've ever done is read about it? It takes a lot of practice to get paid as a professional bike rider or a BMX pro or at the very least a messenger in the city!
Bottom line, internships are a must in education and are not meant to be a paid job. They are the perfect compliment to classroom learning. They are what we need in today's world to stand out among our co-applicants. And you know what will make you stand out even more? International experience and foreign language ability (but these deserve separate blog posts). Want to get the most bang for your buck? Apply for an international internship in a country that does NOT speak your native language, and then shout your experience out from the rooftops on your resume!