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Comment: What do you want - A tan or a job?

Students at Danish universities should resist the urge to tan on the beach. Instead they should roll up their sleeves and use the summer to further their careers, writes Sara Sjölin from New York

The summers were always sacred. Saved for festivals, partying and traveling when I was a bachelor student in Denmark. While the treasured three months of sweet living definitely satisfied my inner teenager, they never really benefited me professionally.

I actually never felt the need to prove myself in the workforce during the summer until I came to New York University to study in its graduate journalism programme. While the programme is three semesters long, it’s the summer in between that gets the full attention, because everyone is required to do an internship of a minimum 10 weeks.

The faculty stresses the importance of work experience, not only because we perfect our professional skills, but also because it gives us priceless connections for future references. My experience so far tells me that many American students get hired after leaving school based on their internships. Internships turn into part-time jobs that turn into a full-time contract. To me, that sounds like a pretty good trade-off for working a few summers.

More summer internships please

Initially I wanted to repeat my Danish summer adventures, but after working a few weeks at an American media company, I’ve come to understand the importance of doing real fieldwork. My journalism and economy classes might have taught me everything from the textbook, but how useless is that, if I can’t use it in real work? At the end of the day, most real life situations can’t be found in school materials.

From what I hear, many students end their five year study period without knowing what direction to go, because they never tried applying theories in offices or labs.

So far, every day has offered me new insights and I’ve started wondering why summer internships are not pushed more on students at Danish universities?

Get off to a flying start

Working as an intern isn’t only great work experience and valuable connections. It’s also a lot of challenges and a feeling of inadequacy. The word ‘intern’ doesn’t necessarily give the greatest connotations. Some places use interns for getting mail, uploading content and working insane hours, and they don’t put in the effort to train the hopeful students.

Myself, I feel like I’m always one step behind the rest of the staff and since I’m only there for a limited amount of time it’s difficult to take on longer-term projects and start covering a certain beat. I’m terrified of screwing up because I don’t want to leave the impression of being the stupidest intern, and that makes me the one who ask a lot of questions instead.

But you have to start somewhere, and I’m sure the hard core long-time reporters sitting next to me also asked a lot of questions when they started their first jobs. It’s just nice that I can start as an intern and ask all my stupid questions now. When I get hired, maybe by my intern work place, I can skip asking and get to work. And a flying start would definitely make up for the lost tanning in the summer weeks.

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