Hidden Lessons of Internships

I have certainly been a lucky liberal arts student: I have completed four internships in just three years at Duquesne. From working as the Outreach Manager of a project, grounded in New York City, fighting distortion of body image in the media, to student teaching health classes at Allderdice High School with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), I have become quite familiar with the schedule of a professional activist. And it stinks.

Before becoming offended, recognize my point: this is what internships are for! After working with the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, Girl Scouts, Strong Women Strong Girls, and most recently PAAR, I have recognized that the life of an activist in non-profits is not for me. Yet, I am so thankful to have had internships to help to realize this at age 20, instead of looking back in 10 years and hating my job.

Beware: Before you go making rash decisions, remember you are just an intern. Your position and tasks will of course be different than full-time employees, and much of the work you are doing may just be “intern work.”

Each internship experience was a monumental learning experience in my life, beginning my freshmen year of college. Working under author and activist, Courtney Martin, we built a grassroots organization working to end distortion of body image in the media. Cities around the world participated, and I am extremely proud to be have been the Outreach Manager of the NYC chapter. The culmination of this project was a 2-day conference entitled Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body. Body image activists from around the country gathered to participate in a brainstorming forum to end this destruction of the real female body.

My second and third internship experiences occurred simultaneously, as I was a program facilitator with Girl Scouts and also the director of my Strong Women Strong Girls chapter – a job that I have grown to consider an internship has it required 20 hours of work a week. Both of these positions fostered my feminist passions and allowed me to work with and inspire children; something I enjoyed much more than database management.

PAARThen, just last semester, I took a fieldwork course (SOC 450), which allowed me to acquire an internship for credit. I ended up working with PAAR, as I mentioned earlier, an incredible organization residing in South Side. As an intern in the education department, I sat in on health classes at high schools, aided in college activism fairs, and even launched a by-stander awareness campaign at Duquesne!

Though everyone wants to ideally love their internship and be reassured in their career choices, it can be just as valuable to learn you need to make some changes. After working with several non-profit organizations, I have decided I do not want my life’s work to be in activist work. And that’s okay! Luckily, these experiences have left me with enough time to work on my future plans and find the perfect profession for me. I do not mean or intend to overshadow my experiences; I have gained a lifetime of knowledge from each experience, which has been more valuable than I ever imagined “intern work” could be!

– Alyssa Federoff

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