Why are Internships important?
(The below represents my personal opinion and based on experience of a person who is too confused to realize what he actually wants to do i.e again me.)
Every year thousands of students apply for internships, in companies or research institutes. Why? Is it because, they want to see new places? Or because, they would like to meet new people, get to experience new culture and also get paid at the same time? The above reasons may answer the question asked in the first line to an extent, but I feel an important aspect is still left out.
Internships and trainings are more of a mutual symbiotic relation between the students and the employer. The employer gets cheap and temporary employees which would assist them in their work. This sort of culture is more germane for research internships where the professor calls the student to assist him in his research. Mostly in small ways, since you cannot rely on a stranger coming for a short period of 2-3 months to make a significant contribution to your work. Also, it provides a platform to the faculty as well to interact with a person who may be from a completely different background for a long period. (Longer than what you may get on your conference visits). Also, it is more of friendly relation between the two as the two don’t have an obligation towards each other. (Compared to PhD student and his supervisor)
//will expand more on above.. maybe sometime else.
This however doesn’t satisfy the mutual symbiotic relation I mentioned earlier.
There is a lot more for the student than there might be for the employer. Remember, those ‘experience before a job’ memes? I guess, it is this experience which most of the employers seek. One gets to work and perform in an environment which he aspires to be in but hasn’t experienced before. This is very essential for the student. He shall know what is in store for him. He would feel the work pressure and also the difficulties which a foreign environment might impose. This helps in evaluation how he may react to such circumstances. On a lighter note, we must not forget the student is pursuing his undergraduation. He is surrounded by various ‘cool’ things and of course the curious young mind would like to try and explore a lot. He should be given a platform to do the same. Nonetheless, this provides a great opportunity to the University/Company as well. The visiting student carries with himself an experience of studying in that university. This may affect the admissions to the university as the student would be interacting with many other fellow students back home and also provides a chance to the university or the firm to be discussed about its work environment.
I would like to reiterate why internships are important especially for the student community. You would be specializing in one particular field (say computer science) and may predilection for a lot of topics. However, unfortunately you cannot study all with equal zeal and enthusiasm. In such a scenario, what I find most apt is, picking up a particular area which you are profoundly interested in and pursuing it further (in form of an internship). This would bring you face to face with reality of what this topic actually has got to offer at a higher level. Please mind that this might be lot different from what you expected. But this juxtaposition is important. Since you always have the opportunity to come back to your home university and may start doing something different. At least, this way you won’t see your life caught up in something way different from your expectations.
As for the employers, you are getting a bunch of enthusiasts who would try their best to leave a positive impression on you.
I will not harangue you more lest be prepared to face a serious of vehement comments on this mundane write-up.
“Tell me and I may forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.”- Xunzi