You’ve probably heard the word, “internship,” at some time within your college career. Whether from an advisor, professor, or that annoyingly responsible friend, the word has been ingrained in the vocabulary of every student that has set foot on a college campus. Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door of the industry you hope to go into after graduation. They provide first-hand experience that will help develop the relevant skills you will need to be a successful professional. But don’t just take it from me and the light research I did at 2AM on a Wednesday—let’s see what our fellow UHM students and alumni have to say about their internship experiences!


Internship Benefits

When it comes to benefits, those provided by the right internships are innumerable. 

First, they help to develop important skills. Kylie Urasaki is a staff member here at the Mānoa Career Center and a senior majoring in electrical engineering. She completed a hybrid internship out in Torrance, California with Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company, and mentioned the benefits the experience brought her in communication and confidence. “I learned how to communicate better with my managers and how to be unafraid to ask questions even when it seems like a bad question.”

Alisha Churma, a junior double-majoring in Communications and Marketing who completed a virtual marketing internship with Liberate, the first mental fitness studio based in Los Angeles, California, described how her internship helped strengthen her organization and time management skills. “Once school started and I had to balance school and my internship work, I learned how to better manage my work and mindspace to avoid feeling too overwhelmed (or when I did feel overwhelmed, how to better manage it) when facing my work.”

Internships also help you develop a real world perspective on your major. Cobalt Zucker is a junior double-majoring in Finance and Marketing who completed a hybrid internship with the financial services company, Northwestern Mutual, in Downtown, Honolulu. “My responsibilities were very similar to that of the full time representatives. I was responsible for reaching out to potential clients to organize meetings either to educate them on basic finance and the benefits of an advisor,” he shared. He continued, “My favorite aspect of the internship was being able to see what a real career looks like and being able to see all the potential for growth and opportunity within the company.”

Most importantly, one of the biggest benefits of internships is that they pay off! Take it from Jarrod Caluya, who upon graduating in 2021 with a degree in Sociology began working at the Institute for Human Services, an organization focused on ending and preventing homelessness where he had interned as a senior. He explained, “My favorite aspect of my internship was that it provided me a pathway to employment after graduation! I now work for IHS as a case manager. Without this internship experience, I would not have been working for the same nonprofit organization that I served as an intern.”


Challenges to Consider

Even with these benefits, every position will have some challenges. 

Cobalt illustrated this in the differences he experienced between learning in the workplace and in the classroom. “It was a very slow burn in terms of seeing the results of your work which is very different from checking work off the list and getting a grade quickly with school. I think another challenge was that there isn’t anyone there telling you what you’re supposed to do every day and it was a lot more of a here is the assignment and figure it out.”

The type of internship also matters, as COVID-19 has moved a lot of opportunities online. While being online gave Alisha the opportunity to intern at a company a whole ocean away from home, she still had to consider the time difference between Hawaii and Los Angeles. “I had to be cognizant of when my supervisor’s working hours were; if I had urgent questions or projects that I had to run by her by the end of the day, I had to think ahead and send them in alignment with her time zone. I also had to wake up extra early on some days to post social media content before it got too late in the morning in the mainland.”

Locating internships can be difficult too. Jarrod shared, “I had to apply to various public agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations before I got my internship with IHS.”


Useful Tips in the Internship Search

It’s likely that the perfect internship will not just fall into your lap (as amazing as that would be). Instead, it’s important to take the time to research and find the listing that’s right for you. Alisha  pressed the importance of finding the right fit. “Once you find a potential internship, evaluate whether your goals/morals align with the company, and consider whether the company is somewhere that you could truly see yourself working at.”

She further suggested browsing LinkedIn. “What I liked about LinkedIn was the “easy apply” filter, which helped me narrow down my search to ones that I could apply to without expending too much time during my busy school schedule at the time,” she reasoned. 

It is also useful to use the resources available to you here on campus. Jarrod advised, “I would recommend students enroll in an internship course to assist in locating an internship within their field of study. Also, take advantage of the counselors at the Mānoa Career Center and your academic advisors.”

Overall, though, what’s important is keeping a positive outlook. “Don’t be afraid of rejection when applying for internships,” Kylie explained. “As long as you give it your best effort you can walk away knowing you did your best!”

As you can see, internships are great opportunities to develop yourself personally and professionally! It is definitely worth looking into the different internship opportunities around you, and if you need a place to start, check out our other blog post full of links to different national, international, and virtual internship opportunities here!