Summer internships allow students to step outside the box


By Nicholas Sauma

Summer and vacation don’t seem to be paired up as often as they used to be. Almost everyone has to work, and some even continue classes. Neither one seems like it’s going to be fun during the summer, but there is a way to get the best of both worlds: a summer internship.

Internships take many forms, some are unpaid, some might give full time hours, others part-time and all have varying responsibilities. What they have in common is a focus on giving students an opportunity to work within fields or skill sets based on interests or career preferences.

This summer, I was connected to an internship through my writing. I met Erin Owen when she took over as director of marketing for the university, and wrote a couple stories about her and her work for The Gateway. As last semester came to a close, she knew I was looking for a job, and that I really wanted to continue writing. She extended an invitation to me to be a writing intern in the Office of University Communications.

Now, I should pause here and say that I actually study political science, not marketing, not communications, not even journalism. The point is that many of the skills and interests you find here at the University of Nebraska at Omaha will cross-over into other disciplines. Don’t be afraid to try them out! In the past, I had two internships that showed me two things I can now say I don’t want to do with my life. The process of elimination, while slower, is still a step forward.

Thankfully, I can honestly say that I’ve loved every nonstop, chaotic minute of this internship. I learned that I’m an excellent researcher, and that’s a skill I’m going to need in my graduate studies. When I walk around campus, I now see so many more familiar faces to greet, and personally, I’ve been working on conquering my two biggest career weaknesses: shyness and organization.

That’s really the beauty of an internship over a summer job. As a student intern I was given real, important tasks and guided through the skills needed to complete it. If I failed, it was treated as a learning experience, and I wasn’t tossed out the door! Some jobs might have that quality, but an internship is specifically geared towards students interested in a certain field or skill area. There’s a better chance of it feeling like an educational experience and job simultaneously.

Finding an internship can be extremely easy. I’d encourage you to find any internship as soon as you possibly can because it does combine education, work experience and experimentation in a really low risk blend. My two other internships helped me decide two things I didn’t want to do, and that’s just as valuable as knowing exactly what you want to do.

Advisers and instructors are often the best place to start, but UNO’s Career Center in the student center is better if you have more general desires. To be honest, my three internships have been the product of being assertive, utilizing connections with people and then totally immersing myself into unfamiliar territory.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned this summer in my internship, it’s something my team often reminded me if I took myself or the job too seriously, “You’re a student first.” When I asked for a day off, I always heard that. When I made a mistake, I heard the same thing. It’s an important lesson for all us. Being a student lets us try a lot of new things, experience and test ourselves, but it doesn’t mean mistakes are the end of the world.