Getting internships is on everyone's to do list in D.C.

Some schools are known for their parties and their school spirit while others for their money-generating sports programs, but one the defining characteristics of AU is the large number of students who intern or are involved in co-op work.

According to internship advisor Marie Spaulding, 75 to 80 percent of undergraduate students and 49 percent of graduate students report that they have done at least one co-op or internship while at AU.

"For many students, the opportunity to participate in internships is a pivotal reason for [their] coming to AU," Spaulding.

But this begs the question, why are internships so important?

For freshman Alicia Griffin, internships are "a big deal because it gives college students the opportunity to experience a real-life career in a specific area of work."

Junior Joy Downey agrees.

"Books and lectures only teach you so much," Downey said. "At an internship, you learn 10 times more about that actual job then having someone else tell you what the job is."

Most tangibly, Spaulding said that especially in this economy, the more experience students have in the work world, the more they will know what skills they want to apply in a full-time job and the greater the chance they will have of landing desirable jobs after graduation.

Indeed, having an internship not only improves one's rsum but also provides an individual with, as Downey said, "connections and networking opportunities."

In fact, Spaulding also said that 50 percent of students who completed their internships said that they will not pursue their original fields as a result of their experience - better to find that out after an internship rather than after the time and expense of college and a first job.

Academic advisor Anne Kaiser recounts one of her students who "thought that she wanted to go to law school, so she interned with a law office. That experience changed her goals completely and she decided not to go to law school."

However, there are some "side-effects" of interning.

Some students notice differences in the behavior of their peers who assume airs of arrogance or self-accomplishment.

"Some people just act like they know more once they get the internship as if they are an insider who knows all the secrets of the Hill," freshman Danielle Abele said.

For others, some internships are so taskful that it affects their academics.

In the past, Kaiser has seen students take up full time commitments "while trying to finish their degree and then ending up barely getting through their classes."

Some students claim that internships may also decrease social interactions friends.

Freshman Matthew Parin notices that among his friends who intern, they "just are a little more stressed and always seems that they are doing something for the internship, making it difficult to get a lot of face-time with them which leads to some breakdown of our friendship."

Nonetheless, for many, the benefits of an internship far outweigh these costs.

Many freshmen are already interning; even for those who have not started.

"I really want to intern because it is a crucial step in college," Parin said.

Griffin agrees.

"While I do not have an internship now," Griffin said, "I'm sure that during my sophomore, junior and senior years, it will be important for me to find one."

The search for an internship may be daunting, but the AU Career Center can help students every step of the way. Internship and career advisors for students of each school make available resources for internships.

Downey added, "they are very good at reviewing resumes and cover letters."

According to Spaulding, the Career Center is active in "arranging network receptions, site visits, employer presentations, and worships."

The Career Center lists thousands of jobs and internships online on their Web site, www.american.edu/careercenter, and hosts a job and internship fair twice a year. The next fair will be on Thursday, March 18, from 1 to 5 p.m. in Bender Arena.

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