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Bottom of the pile

Bottom of the pile

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I was one of the lucky ones, arranging my fifth semester internship was a breeze.  Whilst my friends sent seemingly infinite covering letters to obscure organizations, or buried their heads in the sand and told themselves they’d deal with it when they ‘had a moment’, I could comfortably assure myself I knew exactly what I would be doing between September and February.

But, the best laid plans often go awry.  Friday night two weeks ago, a message from my contact at the company I was planning on interning with dropped into my Facebook inbox.  I should have realized then that there was a reason he wasn’t emailing me from his company account.  His message, polite and short, told me he was no longer working with them, and urged me to contact the head of the department for more information.

“I’ll deal with this when I have a moment”, I told myself.  It was Friday night, it could wait until Monday morning.  Come Thursday, I tentatively sent an email, poking the sleeping lion to find out exactly what was going on. 

As it turns out, the internship was still available, but available at the other end of the country, where, unbeknownst to me and seemingly overnight, the entire company had upped and moved.  

Call me old-fashioned, but isn’t moving hundreds of miles without telling someone who might be counting on you still considered rude?  Especially when what they’re really asking you to do is to relocate to a backwards town in the middle of nowhere to work for free for a few months.

It was a stark reminder that as an intern you really are bottom of the pile.  Grateful for any opportunity given to us we are in competition with each other to be given the chance to work for free.  There’s a perception that the employers are doing us the bigger favour by holding the door open just a slither and forgetting that it’s going to take months for us to open it any further, without even any guarantee that it will come to anything in the end.  With internships the concept of a mutual exchange is increasingly lacking.

When I was drafting my reply to the email, thanking them for the opportunity but explaining that I couldn’t afford to relocate and work for free, it occurred to me: would they have even told me if I hadn’t asked?

 

Phoebe Ellis-Rees, bachelor Student of Arts&Culture

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