LifeWork’s internship requirements keep students like me from completing

I quit Calvin LifeWork this semester because I cannot afford an internship. I will admit that I have grumbled my way through the program, having to do projects that I have no interest in because I am not a ‘business’ person. CLW’s greatest perk to me is a $3,000 scholarship at the end of a four-year commitment. The singular snag in my path towards this hefty financial gain was the requirement that I complete an internship before my senior year of college. 

CLW recommends looking through Handshake (an internet platform Calvin uses for students to find jobs) for internships to complete this requirement. They do not mention that for many majors, internships are often either part-time or full-time and unpaid. As a student of psychology and social work, I scoured the internet far beyond the reaches of Handshake for two things: a paying internship within my skill set, and affordable housing close by because I didn’t own a car. Instead of finding an internship this summer, I worked two jobs, fought my brother for share of a car, and spent all of my money on gas, rent and groceries. I couldn’t have afforded an internship because it would have taken time away from paying jobs. Psychology and social work internships often do not pay, while engineering, computer science and other STEM internships do. Had I taken an internship in my field, I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent, live in a safe space or afford groceries. Although being a professional is an intriguing dream that Calvin LifeWork pushes, I can’t help but think about how this affects other students who might not have as many financial cushions as I do. 

Additionally, I found that I got caught up in the cycle of anxiety that is part of being in the workforce — the idea that we always need to be accomplishing more, making more money, always producing. The ideal internship makes you a stronger candidate than the next person. Althoughthis is beneficial, I don’t feel the drive to play the game of capitalism. LifeWork pushes students to be the next active participants in the inevitable workforce. I don’t want to be a professional, or competitive, or a brand like I am told at CLW. And while $3,000 is a nice incentive, it does nothing for me right now at a time when I need to not spend all of my money on rent, so I can build a space to breathe. Calvin LifeWork impedes me from building that space. It serves as an obstacle rather than boosting my success.

Internships are important and valuable. It is good to encourage people to get them and learn the world of work and experience, but they can effectively take away time from paid jobs that ultimately help us support ourselves. Perhaps instead of making an internship a requirement for CLW, perhaps LifeWork should consider a student holding a job for a specified amount of time, showing that they can build commitment and be a stable employee.