Been one and loved it! And I also volunteered and there is a big difference. Volunteering is expected of High School students here in Ontario* but interning is still seen as a mixed bag of possible problems; overworked, underpaid, with the “best” internships secured more often though connections than by any other means; bringing home the fact that sometimes hard work may not be enough.
Volunteering allows a volunteer to select a field, offer time and energy, and in return become more familiar through a hands-on approach that provides life experience, in addition to, required credit hours.
Internship demands on the spot awareness of a field, a willingness to extend oneself beyond the written job description (brings to mind the character played by Anne Hathaway in The Devil wears Prada even though she was being paid**) and is expected to offer in exchange the integration, for a student or recent graduate, of the the theoretical with the practical. It is only when the graduate finds the position to be so far from what his/her expectations of the work force had been, that cries of “exploitation” are heard. Properly managed, internships provide connections, resume worthy experience and, ideally, a real chance to demonstrate one’s own capabilities. Let’s not be too hasty then to dismiss internships entirely, but return to the concept of opportunity, and encourage more organizations to open doors to graduates and let the younger generation move forward.
– *minimum of forty (40) hours over four (4) years.