“I’m a poor college student.”

It’s a common thing to hear among those pursuing a higher education. Whether as an excuse to stay in rather than going out or a simple complaint about their lot in life, college students are generally on a tight budget.  A recent article in my school’s paper discussed the falling number of paid internships available to students. A large part of the college experience is an internship.In fact, in my program, it’s required.

I spent a lot of time looking for, and applying for, internships. And I realized early on that I wasn’t likely to get paid. But I was okay with that. Aside from the obvious high levels of competition for such coveted positions, there are six reasons I’m glad I took the internship I have, even though it’s unpaid.

1. Free food. Yup, I’m being that shallow. As an intern, I’m allowed to eat lunch for free everyday in the cafeteria. And let me tell you. They feed us well. No complaints here.

2. Friends. There are five other interns here this summer. We’re all in different departments, but we eat lunch together and even have plans some weekends. Like horseback riding last Sunday. Or white-water rafting this weekend. We have lots of fun.

3. Networking. Friends aren’t the only connections I’m making out here. I’m making important contacts within the publishing industry. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writers have to be social. I’ve gotten a story published purely because of who I know. Heck, I got this internship because I talked to a friend, who connected me with someone she knew who gave me a couple names. I followed up with the names, and bam! Internship.

4. Bylines. Now, this is really only applicable for writers. But my internship gives me assignments. I get published. My name is on my work. In the writing world, bylines equal credibility. And credibility equals opportunity. (Whoever said writers don’t use math?) Many publishers won’t consider signing authors unless they’ve been previously published in some capacity. And bylines build your resume. The more assignments you do, and do well, the more likely people are to ask you to work for them.

5. Resume building. Like I said, having my work actually published has been great for my portfolio. Sure I’m not getting paid, but the work speaks to my ability. Not only that, but I hope to work in a Christian publishing company after I graduate. The fact that I’m doing my internship at one of the biggest Christian companies in the world is a pretty nice feather in my figurative cap.

6. Actual experience. Yes, it would be nice to get paid for my work. But I’m grateful for the experience I’m getting. I’m writing and being published. I’m editing. I’m sitting in on meetings. I’m a part of the publication process.That’s so exciting to me! I can hear all about it in the classroom, but to actually be there, to put my knowledge into practice…it’s worth it.

So there you have it. Six reasons I’m happy to remain a poor college student instead of earning money this summer. Of course, it helps that I don’t have to pay for a place to live and food and such.

What are your thoughts? Should interns be paid or not?

Until next time, word nerds!