Arts Internship Program: more than fetching coffee

A common complaint heard about internships is that interns are little more than coffee carriers. However, The UBC Arts Internship Program aims to provide participants with much more than experience balancing coffee cups.

“There will be internships you can get on your own that’ll be sort of like that. But because I am here and I … advocate for the student in the role, I have to approve every job that is posted,” said Program Coordinator Allison Mander-Wionzek. “I will do a site visit to the organization to make sure it is not just fetching coffee.”

The Arts Internship Program allows students to venture outside the classroom and get practical experience. According to Mander-Wionzek, there is little chance that the interns will be given an opportunity to do something so unrelated to their cause since all the internships take place in the non-profit sector.

“To be honest, a non-profit organization needs more help than fetching coffee ... they actually need you to be doing work,” said Mander-Wionzek.

Unique to the Faculty of Arts, the Arts Internship Program provides students with an alternative from the Co-op Program. Rather than full-time paid positions, this program offers unpaid part-time positions (8-12 hours a week).

The program hopes to help students understand a few different directions in which they can take their arts degree.

“We strongly believe you learn where you end up if you start trying different kinds of things. Unless you really get in there and see what it's about, you’re never going to know if [a career] suits you day-to-day,” said Mander-Wionzek.

While the program offers many internships and almost all hopeful interns are placed, the diversity of positions available is a bit of an issue. Students can be posted in non-profits working to aid any and every cause. But due to the nature of the non-profit sector, many internships are in areas such as event management, fund development and social media.

Kiki Cheung, a psychology student interested in event management, found there to be many companies and opportunities available. However, if your interest lies outside of what the average non-profit offers, it will be more difficult to find an interesting position.

“There was diversity, but not so much that would help every arts student,” said Shermaine Chua, a third year international relations student.

The Arts Internship Program is also supplemented by multiple workshops and assignments. Once interns have finished the program, they are formally debriefed and are given the opportunity to reflect and communicate the learning experience.

In the future, Mander-Wionzek hopes to improve the program by adding more interaction between students in different internships as well as between the partners and interns.

“These non-profits have an immense amount of knowledge in their brains that they actually are developing on the ground. So while we are over here researching and developing ideas about how things should work, they are actually on the ground,” said Mander-Wionzek.

For students who are contemplating participating in the program, Chua and Cheung both tell them to just go for it.

“It's a really good place to develop skills in a more relaxed environment. So if you feel like you’re not quite ready for a jump into a full-time position, test the waters,” said Chua.