Students leave campus to gain “experiential education”

By Caitlin O'Connor

This summer, many University students are leaving Champaign-Urbana to spend summer locked in a cubicle, making pots of coffee, and earning next to nil as interns. Perhaps it is just an excuse to get away from C-U’s fresh farmland scent or maybe students are finding internships have more benefits than meet the eye.

One perk of interning while still in college is being able to see the reality of particular jobs. With such information, students have a better knowledge of what they want in their future.

“This internship has given me an opportunity to assess my career options in this field,” said James Herr, a senior in finance and intern at The Northern Trust Company. He does, however, consider parts of his job mundane.

“I get stuck with small projects that current employees don’t want to do,” Herr said. However, he believes even menial tasks have purpose: “It’s just part of learning the ropes.”

William Nielsen, a senior in rhetoric and intern at Allstate, agrees.

“I definitely do some stuff that is beneath me, but in the everyday world there are always easy tasks that need to get done,” Nielsen said.

While internships may still carry a boring stigma, Nielsen feels the myth of low wages is on its way out of circulation. Not only do interns earn a good salary, but Allstate also takes care of their living arrangements.

“You get paid transportation to a nearby hotel, which houses you for free for the full 12 weeks of the program,” he said. Unfortunately not all internships are so lofty. Luckily, interns can still get a lot out of such jobs.

What’s more important than the money is the experience and knowledge interns can take on to their next job. Brandon Bute, assistant director of career services at The Career Center, calls this asset “experiential education.”

“Employers are looking for students with practical experience,” Bute said, and the level of experience gained is up to the intern. While some menial tasks can be expected in any job, students should not feel their opportunities are limited.

“Students should not be afraid to ask for more responsibility,” Bute said. He also believes that experience doesn’t always have to come from an internship. Other options, such as jobs, clubs and volunteer work can do just as well.

If you’d like more information about internships, or “experiential education,” visit The Career Center at 715 S. Wright St., in Champaign. If you’d like to make an appointment, call (217) 333-7154.