Internships and fellowships are great ways to gain experience, acquire new skills, sharpen existing ones, and of course build networks. Great no? More often than not, these positions are unpaid which can be a definite downside. It’s not an ideal situation, but I am a firm believer that down the line, in a not-so-distant future, the benefits will be significant and hopefully, come in the form of an awesome job.
Once sucked into the world of unpaid intern and fellowships, it can be incredibly difficult to get out. I speak from experience readers. I have been scrapping by on my meager savings since June 2011, spending 3 months in San Francisco, 3.5 months in Honduras, and now I just landed in Santiago de Chile, for another 3 month stint. How have I done it? Let’s just say, I have been blessed with very kind friends and family who have helped me along the way with housing, food, discounted flights, and moral support. I think if you’re passionate about your intern/fellowship, you will find a way to pay for rent, travel, and food. That has certainly been the case for me. By all means, you may have to get creative and ask for help, but it’s do-able. The only annoying bit (read: colossal pain) is having to deal with my student loans. If you are debt-free, your experience will be that much more enjoyable and stress free.
Where is Pina now? Well, after a few months relaxing in Boston, I’ve made my way back to Santiago to intern at a local Fair Trade NGO that specializes in the export of Chilean handicrafts. It’s a bit of a deviation from the work I’ve been doing the past few months, but equally worthwhile, and lots to learn. This NGO works with artisans and artisan associations from relatively poor economic sectors of Chile and gives them access to international markets and the opportunity to increase production, receive fair wages and obtain or maintain a decent standard of living. Added bonus: I spend my days surrounded by beautiful things.
To be honest, this will probably be my last unpaid intern/fellowship. I don’t plan on pursuing any others unless they are UNBELIEVABLE. In the meantime, I plan on enjoying Santiago, my new gig, and my new friends. Oh, and obviously continue my job hunt during whatever is left of my free time. Feel free to send me any leads in microfinance/microenterprise/poverty alleviation sector. Ha! I’ll be forever grateful!