While it may seem strange to think about what to do in the summer of 2016 when it’s still 2015, many students begin the hunt for summer jobs and internships over the winter break.
A lot of large companies with competitive internship programs have applications that go live around this time, and are due surprisingly early in the year, so interested students should start the process soon.
Internships have gained a bad reputation in the past few years because of companies creating exploitative unpaid internship positions. Such positions do not compensate young people for labour, and give them questionable amounts of training or experience, and yet demand full-time hours of challenging work. They are also often marketed as “bridges” into actual jobs in the company, and then turn out to never lead to later employment.
However, despite this controversy, many companies do offer compensation and wages for their internships, and many of these programs are valuable experiences for students. It’s just a matter of being careful, doing a lot of research, and making sure that a program has good feedback and seems legitimate (and offers reasonable reimbursement) before applying.
One popular summer student program that has a history of employing Canadian students (and several Brock students) is the Disney International College Program, or ICP. Fourth year Concurrent Education student, Rebecca Kent was involved in the program for three summers, and she said that it has been an important experience for her personal and professional development. According to Kent, while perks such as getting to live in Florida and go in the parks all summer were great, her favourite experience was actually the work that she got to do as part of the program.
“As much as I want to say the best part of the program was being at Disney the whole summer, it was actually getting to work there that was the best” said Kent. “Before, I had gotten to experience the Disney magic. Now, I got to make the Disney magic. The times I was working were my favourite, and it was definitely the best summer of my life.”
International programs like the ICP may seem intimidating for students who are uncertain about leaving home and their normal support systems for an entire summer. However, Kent emphasized that she was able to find a community of friends through her international experience, and that international work and internship programs typically tend to be conducive to creating friendships and support groups.
“Right before I was going to leave, I was super nervous. I met with one other person going from Brock beforehand, and three others from Brock who had done it in the past, so I had talked about it, but I only knew that one person,” said Kent. “But I met someone on the shuttle up, and by the time we arrived I had met four new friends, and we formed a tight-knit group for the rest of the summer. We just had so much in common.”
For students who are interested in the ICP, or in similar student programs offered by other international companies, Kent recommended doing a lot of research and dedicating the time to make sure that they find the right program.
“It had always been at the back of my mind that Canadians could work at Disney, so I did a lot of research” said Kent. “Then this website eventually popped up with two options, the year-long program and the summer program. I decided on the summer program, applied online, and then went through the process.”
Kent emphasized that summer programs are not all fun and games, and that they do require a lot of work. However, she said that doing the program is more than worth it, and it ended up being one of the best experiences she could have asked for.
“It had always been the happiest place on Earth,” said Kent. “This time, I got to help make it the happiest place on Earth.”
Other major companies that provide internship opportunities include major Canadian banks such as TD and RBC, consulting companies such as Accenture PLC, and more outdoors-oriented companies such as eco-tour group G Adventures, Incorporated.