Icing on the Cake

This week, my department welcomes a new faculty member who is going to be focused solely on facilitating our academic internship program. I am thrilled that she is joining our team, and I am more thrilled that we now have someone who will be overseeing this kind of educational program – who will focus on our students’ experiential learning opportunities.

American History Museum

American History Museum

The summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to do an internship at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. I was not a historian-in-training, nor was I planning to work in a museum setting. However, I wanted to be a professional writer (at the time), and so for my internship I wrote copy for the Museum’s educational programs, including having the sole responsibility for writing the Museum’s Internship Handbook.

This was an amazing, life-altering experience. Not only did I benefit from the professional writing practice situated in an actual organization, but I also participated in myriad learning opportunities sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, I met hundreds of people, including a batch of fellow interns (both at the Smithsonian and with other organizations) whom I still keep in touch with and consider to be part of my professional network – 20+ years later! As the commercial goes, “Priceless.”

Now – I was not an adult student with multiple responsibilities when I did this internship. I had an apartment that I subleased, and I had a job from which I arranged to take a hiatus, but I did not have kids, a partner, cats, a mortgage, a bathtub that wouldn’t drain, and other kinds of adult commitments. So that made it relatively easy for me to jump on this opportunity and move across country for 3 months to undertake the adventure. Nonetheless, the values of internships for adult college students should not be overlooked, and they ARE possible and relevant. Watch this video:

Fiftysomethings Taking Their Turns as Interns

Here are my top 4 reasons why adult college students should consider doing an academic internship:

1) You will get to apply and thus deepen your classroom learning. Theory turns into practice, and as a result, you get to learn the limits of theory as well when trying to enact it.

2) You will build on the knowledge and skills that you had prior to returning to college. Sometimes this means un-learning things; sometimes it means re-learning things; but it always means learning things.

3) You also will learn new things: you will gain new skills, knowledge, and capacities that will only benefit your personal and professional development.

4) You become integrated into a network. Currently, 50% of our internships lead to jobs for our students. Those jobs may not necessarily be at the place where the student’s internship occurred, but they do come from the relationships and the experiences the students had available to them as a result of doing an internship.

I do have one more thing to say about internships, and listen up because this is important: “Getting a job” should never be the desired outcome of doing an internship. Instead, consider what you want to learn and what kinds of experiences you want to have. What you do will ultimately be much less important than what you learn and who you meet. Getting a job will be the icing on an already delicious cake.

If you are a Marylhurst student and are interested in doing an academic internship, talk to your academic advisor or contact our Career Services office.

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