I Can't Afford To Be An Intern
Latina|April 2016

Unpaid internships pay in experience. Uh, great - but what about the bills? Here's how to afford your dream gig - or find a genius new way to get your big break.

Michelle Ruiz

JOANNA RODRIGUEZ IS SUCH A BOSS. The 22-year-old, Sam Houston State University senior beat out thousands of applicants last summer to become an intern for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Her big dream is to become a political leader - maybe a district attorney, since she was born in Venezuela and can’t be President. “Politics is all about networking,” she said. “I didn’t have any of that yet.”

But when Joanna realized the internship was unpaid, she was crushed. Between paying her rent, travel costs to the internship, and other bills, she thought, “How am I going to afford this?”

Being a full-time intern wouldn’t leave time for a part-time job. And her parents couldn’t toss her thousands of dollars, either. “My mom was like, ‘I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to have to turn it down.’ ”

IS IT WORTH IT?

It’s expensive enough just to make it to graduation—about 69 percent of the class of 2013 had student debt, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. But internships “are the secret cost of college,” says Christie Garton, founder of UChic, a social commerce company that provides scholarships for low-income students. Yes, internships give you an edge in the uber-competitive job market. But according to research firm Intern Bridge, unpaid opportunities are on the rise, and it can be crazy-stressful—especially for Latinas who are often first-generation college students and may not have the hook-up of their parents’ sweet bank account—to afford one.

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