Working hard for no money

Internships can give students valuable experience but can be detrimental to their bank accounts.

Liz Behler had no idea what she was getting into when she accepted an internship at Banyan Productions for the show Trading Spaces.

“It was a lot of grunt work. It was a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and it was one of those jobs where if you do it right, no one notices you but if you do it wrong, you’re in trouble,” said Behler, a recent graduate from the School of Communications and Theater.

“I thought it was going to be much more creative and glamorous, and it really wasn’t,” she said.

After the internship, Behler took time off from school to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. After almost two years of soul-searching — moving back home with her parents, working at a coffee shop, traveling to London and Paris—Behler realized she wanted to write and pursued an internship at Philadelphia magazine.

Behler’s experience as an intern is not uncommon among college students.

“An internship is designed to be a learning experience, so it’s supposed to be more than just running errands or getting coffee,” said Mary Claire Dismukes, a Career Center counselor. “It’s being able to take a project on and learn about a specific area in their field of interest.”

Dismukes said running errands or performing menial tasks can somewhat prevent “learning moments.”
“For the most part, I think students who have internships have valuable learning experiences that help them better understand the field that they’re interested in, and sometimes, it helps them figure out what they don’t want to do,” she said.

Though Behler’s internship wasn’t what she expected, she is grateful.

“I’m really thankful for that experience because it taught me what I didn’t want to do,” she said.

Once Behler returned to Temple, she began searching for an internship. She knew her odds of getting a writing or magazine gig upon graduation were hopeless if she did not have something to put on her résumé.

“When I finally got to Philly mag, it finally clicked,” she said. “I finally felt like I was where I should be. It took me this long to find it, but I found it, and then I graduated.”

Erik Brown, a senior film and media arts major, participated in SCT’s L.A. Internship Program this summer.

Brown worked as a development intern at NALA Films, an independent production company.
“The internship was a great opportunity,” he said. “It gave me contacts in the industry, as well as future contacts.

“One guy actually got his script optioned, and he has a deal with Warner Bros. and an agent. He is still in a couple of my classes this year,” Brown said. “Another guy is an assistant editor on the new 90210. One of my old roommates edits sound for a lot of Nickelodeon shows. I could call all of them to see if their company is hiring or if they know anyone who is hiring.”

At the 2009 Spring Career Expo, some Temple students discussed their internship experiences with the Disney College Program.

“The experience, the friendships, just being able to go to the parks on your days off and being in a new, different part of the country was a really good experience,” said junior theater major Blaise Mannino.
Andrew Muszynski, a junior fine arts major, said the Disney College Program was more than just a career-building experience.

“You get to meet people from all over the world who are coming to this one spot,” Muszynski said. “For me, I never lived away from home. It was my first moving-away-from-home experience, and the transition was easy.”

“I think internships are really important to ground you,” Behler said. “It’s practical experience, and not only is it invaluable in getting a job, but it’s invaluable for your own peace of mind.”

Joshua Fernandez can be reached at

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