The Daily Struggles of Unpaid Summer Interns

You’re probably reading this in your cubicle (if you’re lucky) or at the desk you share with two other interns. You should probably be working, or, at least, be pretending to work. If you’re anything like 99 percent of the college population, you’re wasting away at an unpaid internship (aka slave labor) this summer. “But I get college credit!” you may say. Doesn’t matter. College credit does not equal money. I can’t pay for my vodka soda or iced grande skinny vanilla latte with college credit. An unpaid intern’s life is a rough one, and here’s what it looks like:

First, you snooze your alarm at least two times before you actually decide to get out of bed. Then, there’s the 15-minute long stare into your closet, hoping that more work-appropriate clothes will magically appear. Somehow, you don’t think your boss would be too pleased if you showed up in a college t-shirt or that NastyGal crop top you just bought. The final clothing choice is always the pair of pants you wore twice this week with a slightly wrinkled top. It’s not like you can afford to take these items to the dry cleaner…you’re unpaid, remember?

Your only option for getting to your internship is public transportation because gas prices are high as hell and the subway is cheap; so you decide to sacrifice personal comfort in return for a couple of dollars saved. When you finally get to the office, your clothes are sopping wet from the sweat that poured from your body during the 25-minute subway ride and who knows if that weird smell is lingering with you or not.

“Pretend to be busy” is the name of the game once you sit down at your desk (if you’re even lucky enough to have your own desk – most of us peasants get stuck at a table with the other interns). You’ll open 20 tabs of BuzzFeed articles and quizzes, but you’ll quickly click back to that Word or Excel document any time an important boss or employee walks by. Meanwhile, you’re counting down the minutes until (temporary) freedom: lunch.

Lunch consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich eaten at your desk, alone. Let’s be real, there’s no way you can afford to go out to a fancy lunch with your fellow interns and bosses. No paycheck means no overpriced salad at the SweetGreen down the street.

After lunch, your bosses all of a sudden decide they have a mountain of work to give to you. Spending the rest of the day locked in the copy room with the other intern, you learn all about her new fad diet (newsflash, honey, I literally do not care). By the time you’re done, you’ve killed about five trees making copies, stuffed approximately a million envelopes, sorted through five baskets of mail and filed 500 documents.

You begin to think you’re home free at 10 minutes until 5 p.m. until your bosses summon you into their offices to take their Starbucks orders. Grudgingly, you leave the office with a notepad full of coffee orders and head to the Starbucks a block away. After waiting in line for 10 minutes (am I going to get paid overtime for this?) and waiting another 20 minutes for the drinks to be ready, you struggle to carry the two carrying trays back to the office. After giving each coffee to its respective owner, you speed walk to your desk, shut down your computer and sprint out of the office before someone can give you another menial task to do.

And what do you have to look forward to for tomorrow? The same process. It’ll be the same exact thing every other weekday for the rest of the summer. Pretty soon you’ll display a college move-in countdown on your desk to get you through day after day. On the bright side, you are able to get a glimpse of what the heck you want to do after this beautiful thing called college is over.

Featured image via Flickr


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