Trevor Stauffer is in his last semester at Millersville University and has recently completed an internship at Merit Marketing. If you are a student looking for internships, visit this page to find more information.
I put off my internship for a while. I always had excuses. I worried that I wouldn’t have enough time, that the pay wouldn’t be as good as my part-time job, and that my grades would suffer. Part of me even thought that I wouldn’t benefit from an internship. After all, school was going well, and the business world couldn’t be that different.
I was wrong. I’m a little over halfway through my copy-writing internship with Merit Marketing, and the experience is transforming my ability to write and edit in ways that formal classes never did (at least for me). In no way do I mean that traditional courses are less valuable; they are two totally different ways of learning.
The internship atmosphere is different. In a college course, you are among peers. If you’re one of the more studious kids in the room, you may know a bit more about some topics, or pick up on lecture material faster. But no matter how much you stand out in the classroom, in an internship you know much less, and have much less experience, than anyone around you. In my opinion, this is a fantastic opportunity. You can ask for advice, learn from criticism, and foster connections with professionals. Be a humble sponge, soaking up the insights, methods, habits, and years of real-world wisdom around you.
An internship is also much more demanding than most college courses. There is both a much heavier workload and greater expectations on the quality of work. In an essay about Shakespeare, for example, you can probably get away with some awkwardly constructed, uninteresting sentences. And you’d probably be given at least a few weeks to write it. My copy-writing internship has been a great way to learn to write cleaner, leaner, more direct prose on a tight deadline. Professors are generally nice people, and don’t want to tear your heartfelt essay to shreds. But the real world is cruel. It doesn’t care how much introspective finesse you put into crafting that paragraph. Shorten it! Add more SEO keywords! Get to the point! While my mentors at Merit could not have been more polite or helpful, I did end up revising a lot. And that’s good: better to learn in an internship under friendly guidance than be called into a manager’s office at a real job.
As different as my internship has been from previous classes, I know that without those classes, I would have been worse off. In particular, I think my journalism courses were especially good preparation. Because journalism stresses facts, readability, and topics that appeal to the public, I was able to use a lot of the skills I learned in journalism courses while writing blog posts for Merit.
My English degree has had less direct application, but it’s still been important. Pursuing an English degree has led me to care about language and literature. I’ve read many challenging works, become interested in different genres, and been absorbed in the power of history’s greatest authors. So while I’m far from a great writer, I’m a far better writer than I would have been without pursuing an English degree.
Another aspect of my internship I’ve really enjoyed has been writing blog posts from home. It’s been a lot more work than I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. Each week, I’ve been researching and writing one blog post for Merit’s website from the comfort of my own room. I’ve been able to cover a wide range of topics I previously knew nothing about, so it’s been a great way to expand my general knowledge of the business world. This from-home work has added extra credits to my internship and flexibility to my schedule: it could not have worked out better.
If you’re an English major on the fence, trying to decide if an internship is worth the extra work, I’d say go for it. You can earn credits, get paid, and, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll meet great people and improve your writing dramatically.