What’s Up With Internships?

Illustration by Allen B Thangkhiew

Naki Shullai, a graduate of Madras Christian College, a premier institution situated in South India describes her internships as “more productive and informative for her future than three years of college ever did.”

In three years of college, Naki interned at an organisation called Internshala as a Campus Ambassador, at the Human Rights Office, Shillong, and at a local NGO.

That is two more internships than I had during my Undergraduate degree.

Although “only an online internship which provided nothing more than a simple certificate”, interning as an Internshala campus ambassador was a good start.

She moved on to interning at the Human Right’s Office, where she documented various accounts of human rights violations in the state.

“Since it was an internship with a governmental organisation, it was relaxed and low pressured” Naki explains.

Her third internship at a local NGO had Naki “burnt out.”

Since its parent company has its headquarters in Italy her work had to go through “different levels of hierarchical authorisation”, which left a frustrated figure. But the experience was educational, eye-opening and taught her what she wanted for her future “than three years of college did.”

There are two types of people in our town-

One, people who don’t believe in the concept of interning

And two, people who are interested but due to the scarcity of opportunities, are not able to partake.

Naki’s disappointment with Shillong’s lack of internships is indicated when she says, “How would you describe something that’s only just begun?”

“Internships in Shillong is like watching paint dry. Extremely boring and dull.”

Shubham Paul feels the same way. A resident of Jorhat, a town in neighbouring Assam, Shubham is pursuing a Bachelors in Biotechnology. He is also frustrated at the lack of internship opportunities in his city and feels that the culture of interning is “not prevalent.”

Shubham didn’t enjoy his internship. “Finding an internship in your desired field is a tedious affair.”

In a city devoid of any real opportunity, he settled for what he got.

According to Internshala, an online internship providing platform, there are currently no laws protecting interns in India. Although unpaid internships have its merits, interns are not protected under any law which makes it easy for corporations to give out unpaid internships. Notably, interns are not even eligible to get minimum wage.

Sleepless nights are common for an Engineering student. It is known to be an arduous and difficult profession. The immense competition is a prime cause for stress in engineering scholars.

Raghav, an Engineering student explains the lesser-known evils behind internships. They may be life changing for some, but traumatizing for the rest. He had interned at a Multinational company in Chennai, a Southern state in India. He described it as “pretty decent.”

Until it wasn’t.

His superiors were rude, condescending and treated the interns without respect. Raghav lays emphasis on interns being severely underpaid and calls it a “toxic environment.”

It unfortunately made him rethink the decision to intern.

The role of interns is better defined in other countries.

For example in Japan, Article 11 of the Japanese Labour Standards Law states – “In this law, wage shall mean the wage, salary, allowance, bonus and every other payment to the worker from the employer as remuneration for labour, regardless of the name by which such payment may be called.”

According to Newsweek magazine, unpaid internships are illegal in the U.K.

As the law currently stands, the internship is considered illegal if the intern provides his/her services that is of value to their employer and has set hours and responsibilities. The law also applies if an intern has agreed to work for free. If the case arises where the work done by an intern fulfils the criteria of an employee, their employer is legally required to pay them.

A rather disappointing reason for the lack of interns and lucrative internships is down to the existence of government jobs. People prefer the security of government jobs rather than focusing on what they love. This affects the mind-set of students from a very young age. The lack of originality prevents students from going after what they love.

The obsession with government jobs may arise from within your family as well. Parents may not understand the importance of internships, especially if unpaid.

We asked teachers if parents understood the concept of interning.

Dr. Lewis of St. Edmund’s College, Shillong, says that “the concept and merits of internships are yet to be understood by most parents. Hence, what is pertinent is to firstly educate the parents and kids alike about internships and how beneficial it would be.”

“The idea of internships in our part of the land means that they are beneficial or reserved mainly for students who are in the medical field.”

As per the Half and One Survey, we found out that 31.58% of respondents had never interned. Most of them stated that they simply did not have the time or opportunity to do so.

Nazareen, 22, says that furthering her studies has left her with little to no time for anything else. Interning has been dubbed as “time consuming.”

Yvette, 23, has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from St. Edmund’s College, Shillong and believes that there aren’t many opportunities for interning in our town. She also states that she does not have the time to pursue an internship.

Notice a trend?

The education system in our country has a major flaw. Students are extremely overburdened with school and college work that they do not possess any free time to pursue other interests and activities. This may not apply to many but it is a prevalent setback to the ones who wish to broaden their intellectual horizon through internships, part-time jobs, hobbies, but are dragged down with a massive anchor.

The lucky few who are fortunate enough to secure an internship relish the opportunity.

In Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, among the buzzing and bustling populace, Saptaparna Banerjee is full of life and ambition. She is grateful for her internship. “I got to learn many new skills, hone them to perfection and acquire some fresh knowledge in the process. It was wonderful.”

In 2019, Internshala reported to have crossed the 1 million barrier in providing internships to students. The cities that offered the greatest number of internships were Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Naki has beneffited immensey from having a mentor.

She says it can be “life changing”. She signed up for a mentorship program and had the chance to work alongside a mentor from England. She learned the best way to write her resume, to tackle writing SOPs, internship opportunities in her field of study and knick-knacks about college and personal life.

Illustration by Allen B Thangkhiew

Our survey asked company owners how an internship would benefit individuals searching for a job.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 50% of respondents answered with a 10.

John Wankhar, is a well-known figure in Meghalaya’s tourism industry. He provides internships at his company and is surprised that most of the applicants are first time interns. He explains that having a “mentor or a counsellor at the high school level is essential for students as they receive the proper guidance” needed for their future.

Mrs. Barett, a business owner and a parent agrees with Mr. Wankhar. The guidance of a proper mentor/counsellor can be the difference between a child excelling or failing in his/her endeavours.

She calls the security of a government job a myth.

“The current trend of offering government jobs on a contractual basis debunks the theory of job ‘security’.”

The need for internships has never been so high. We, in the Northeast especially need to understand the benefits of having a mentor or a guide over monetary gain. Students are only now starting to understand the benefits of having an internship.

An unpaid internship with a leader in a particular field is much more valuable than a high paying internship with no future job prospects.

The experience you can gain from a seasoned leader will ultimately lead you to landing your dream job.

Tanya Syngai, is the Director of AdmissionIndia, a business that offers scholarships and helps students move abroad for further studies. Being a leader in her field, and employing a large number of interns, she says that internships will “build and guide individuals to a better and a focused future.”

She also has a say about the popularity of government jobs.

“Even if you get them, it limits independent thinking and application in a creative manner.”

Having had personal connections working with the government, it is undoubtedly so.

Ms. Syngai makes an astute observation on the basis of ‘job security’ within the government.

“Security, to me stems from one’s capability. Capable and hardworking people will always do well, be it government jobs or private jobs.”

Author: Neil Wallang

Neil Wallang is a staff writer. He has a Masters in English from Delhi University. An avid Manchester United fan, he loves technology, cars, and books.

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