How many of us have heard those words? He or she is “just an intern.” Now, my own situation is a bit different, but it’s still a similar attitude. Since I’m “just an intern,” people didn’t think I was capable of certain work at first… they learned. Since I’m “just an intern” that doesn’t get paid it was assumed I wouldn’t be as motivated… they learned. Since I’m “just an intern” I can’t have transportation to Ivory Coast for my flight… I learned!
We all have things to learn… many organizations which “employ” (using that term loosely here) interns need to make their other employees aware that the word intern is not a dirty word, it doesn’t mean we are less capable human beings, and most of all it doesn’t give people the right to treat us as gophers and errand boys!
In conversations with my fellow interns this summer I have often heard statements such as: “If I’m so incompetent, then why did they hire me?” “How can I edit parts of a report that I’m not allowed to see?” “How can someone else take credit for my work?” “Why don’t they give me anything substantial to do?” “Why do they treat me like an idiot who is only good for getting their coffee?” “How is it that I’m supposed to GAIN experience again?” AND “Can anyone explain to me why I’m working for free, in fact paying AU, AND being treated poorly?!”
However, as interns we must also learn to be humble. After all even if we are capable people, with education, many of us do not have the experience of our coworkers and for that we too must put in our time. However fair or unfair it seems… I, because I’m an expat but “only” an intern, do not get a car to take me to the Ivory Coast (where my flight leaves from) next week. So, the less recommended and by far less convenient route of commercial transportation, is the route I will be taking… for good or bad… because I’m “just” an intern!
I have chosen to be humble and accept my “fate” as a “lowly” intern for the time being and what that means working for DRC here in West Africa. Assuming every one of my predecessors (ok, not here, but in a more typical situation) has been here and has climbed out of it to be something more than “just” an intern… I too will one day graduate and move beyond the place in which I, and many of my classmates, find ourselves.