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Trials of an Intern

The Trials of an Intern
An internship is an integral part of the BMM course. But finding a job is something that’s left solely on the students’ shoulders, discovered Rohini Kapur.

To give the Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course a ‘hands-on’ touch, the University of Mumbai decided to make it compulsory for students to complete an internship in between the fourth and fifth semesters. So the naive students stepped into the big bad professional world to try and gain some real life experience. Then, all of a sudden the University changed its mind (what’s new?). But the colleges decided that the University had a good idea and made it mandatory for their students to do an internship, apprenticeship or whatever else they like to call a month of photocopying and coffee fetching.

Sounds great, but here’s the catch. Around December, BBM students in colleges across the city were told start job hunting – on their own. The colleges refused to help and told us that we were supposed to have made contacts in the industry during the first two years of the course. So there I was, along with the rest of my class, looking high and low for an internship.

In January, friends poured in with their tales of woe, saying they didn’t know anyone in the media. “Too bad”, they were told by their HoDs. Even those who had worked earlier, had to do an internship in April, come what may. (Bureaucracy at its worst.)

By February, a couple of my classmates had managed to land internships and were proudly displaying their confirmation letters. But hidden below their elation was a tad of disappointment. The poor souls weren’t going to get paid a penny. Meanwhile, many others (including me) were still looking. In desperation, a friend with a penchant for media planning, and loads of enthusiasm actually opened the Yellow Pages, and painstakingly called every advertising agency listed. She still hasn’t got an internship.

I first tried a reputed TV channel. After making me wait for three agonizing days, they replied saying that I would have to intern with them for a minimum of two months – for free. I wouldn’t even be paid conveyance.

Most who are doing internships aren’t getting paid. Five of my classmates have joined a tabloid, which although very receptive to student interns, won’t be paying them for their stints with the organization. Only ten students out of the sixty students in my class will get compensated for their efforts. And the work they do might be anything from running to get coffee, answering phone calls, to actual work like copywriting, sub-editing, and designing.

Methinks the big media houses, proud of their ‘name’ and achievements, and aware that students desperately need a summer job, try to save their precious moolah by making the eager interns work for free. In fact, it’s usually the “small” places that pay.

The students, of course, are stuck. Whether or not they get paid, they have put in their best so that they get positive feedback/ recommendations from the companies as their marks depend on it. Sheetal is working at a production house. She is not getting a stipend but feels “lucky they pay for food and conveyance.” And what does she do there? “Just observe how they work.”

Pooja worked at a well known tabloid last year. “They made me do everything from editing news stories to sorting through agency reports. But I didn’t get any credit or money for the work I did.” Pooja asserts that she will never work for free again.

*Some of the names have been changed on request.

(Rohini Kapur is a BMM student at KC College)

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