Why in the world would someone intentionally add an entire year onto their degree? Actually, an even better question is why would they do that if they’ve burnt out and really just wanted to be done? Call me crazy but I did - and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Let me go all autobiographical on you for a moment. I was a 3rd year (broke) Psych student whose interest and enthusiasm for school was petering out… actually if I’m going to be honest, I was plunging into a pit of hate and despair. I had lost all interest. I stopped studying, doing my readings, and only showed up to class for midterms. Actually, it went beyond losing interest in school and actually despising having to show up on campus. On top of that many of my friends that had gone into a trade were finishing their apprenticeships, making money, and having a life- so let’s just say that I was a bit jealous. This version of me was completely opposite of the somewhat-nerdy-kind-of-keener student I normally was. Although I felt miserable, I couldn’t justify dropping out when I was over halfway done. Luckily, I had a friend who had just finished the science internship program and had loved it. I looked into the program and realized that it could be a perfect alternative for me. I’d get paid to do a job related to my degree and would get at least a year away from school without having to drop out. It sounded too good to be true but it wasn’t. It actually was exactly what I needed to help me refocus and recuperate. I went back to school after that year of work with a better sense of what I wanted to do next. After all, I obviously had my academic spark reignited and love the PhD work I’m doing now. I feel extremely fortunate to have had my internship opportunity.
While you may not be feeling as dire as I was, I would highly recommend taking on an internship during your undergrad. The U of A has many opportunities for students depending on which program you’re in. (And to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of them at the end of this post.)
So why add a year to your degree with an internship or co-op? Your reasons will be your own (as mine were), but here are nine other reasons to motivate you to look into an internship:
1) Maximize Your Experience.
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If you’ve ever done a job search then you’ve seen that even entry level jobs usually require a year or two of work experience. An internship can provide you with the opportunity to say that you have some of that experience.
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When you graduate, a whole group of people will graduate with you, and they’ll have the same degree. The competition will be stiff when you enter the work force and having work experience in your field will likely give you an edge.
3) Focus and Refocus.
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The workload and the repetitive routine of school can sometimes cause you to lose your focus. The experiences you’ll have during an internship will provide you with a unique opportunity to re-evaluate your long term goals and can help you to redefine the path that you’ll use to achieve them.
4) Network, network, network.
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I cannot reinforce this one enough. An internship will provide you with contacts in a given field. Building a professional network can provide you with other opportunities to get involved in your field, will increase your chances of hearing about relevant jobs, and will also enable you to meet people with similar interests.
5) Walk the Talk.
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How do you know if you even want to work in a specific field if you haven’t actually tried it out? Maybe the Alberta OCC info on your intended career sounds interesting to you but until you’ve walked the walk and talked the talk it’s nearly impossible to tell if you’ll enjoy ALL aspects of a career. The perk of an internship is that you’ll get immersed in the field but for a limited time. And if you decided it’s not really your thing then you still have time to change your path during your undergrad.
6) Take a "Break."
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Sometimes you really need to get away from the books and concentrate on other areas of your life for a bit.
7) Make some money.
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Everyone needs references, whether it’s to get into a professional school, grad school, or to get a job. The more detail a referee can provide the better you’ll look so working with a mentor or supervisor for a year of full-time work will definitely help.
9) Career support.
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Most programs will have extra training to help you improve skills like interviewing, resume writing, and career planning. This support is invaluable and from my experience I have gone back to talk to my internship coordinator a few times since completing the program and she’s always been a great guide!
So now that I’ve piqued your interest checkout the links below for more info on each program the U of A offers. If I’ve missed any or you have any comments on why your internship rocked leave us a comment!
- Science Internship program
- Arts Work Experience program
- Engineering Co-Op program
- The Business Cooperative Education program
- The Go-Abroad internship program (for those who'd like to travel)
About the Author
Hi, my name is Shannon and I’m here to provide you with a YouAlberta graduate student perspective. I am currently in the last year of my degree and have (quite) a few years of experience on the U of A campus as both an undergrad and graduate student.
I am excited to show off our student experience both here at the U of A and in the broader Edmonton community. We have a dynamic campus culture full of events, groups, and just day to day awesomeness. My passions include science and getting others involved in science related activities, volleyball, hiking, and camping. I’m also full of tips on how to have fun on a student budget. Over the next year I hope I can show you how to make the most of your U of A experience because there’s so much more to school than classes and expensive textbooks!