(Rock Hill, S.C.) — To acquire a Winthrop University degree, one must go through a rigorous process and no two students are likely to have the same experience due to the different program requirements of each major.
Some programs are more challenging than others and some require students to work an internship, which can vary in the number of credits awarded or the number or hours a student must work to complete.
The university’s Center for Career and Civic Engagement Center says “internships are a great way to ‘test the waters’ for your career path,” according to its website.
Additionally, they say an internship can help build a strong résumé, expand a student’s professional network and help with decision making when choosing a career.
For recent Winthrop graduate Abby Pendergrass, an internship affirmed her interest in working in the field of healthcare and contributed to her decision to continue her education.
“I gained valuable experience and really got my feet wet experiencing the operations of a hospital. It also really solidified what I want to do with my career moving forward,” said Pendergrass, who graduated earlier this year with a degree in healthcare management.
She is currently pursuing a master of health administration degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Pendergrass said she was required to do an internship that required 400 hours of work in order to graduate, but she found the experience valuable.
“Throughout my internship, I was able to gain impeccable experience and make connections,” she said.
Internships can also provide students important lessons outside of the classroom, such as how to manage time, make observations and communicate effectively.
Cameron Mintz, an elementary education major from Cowpens, S.C., said it can be a challenge to balance school and work, but it’s worth the effort.
“I think it is really great what all they require of us,” Mintz said. “However, balancing social activities, school and this internship is something that I need to adjust to, but something that I’m glad I’m being made to do”.
The College of Education requires students to complete a two part internship. The first phase sees a student teach for half a semester during a student’s junior year and the second phase requires a year long internship during their senior year, which some students can find overwhelming.
“Not only has it given me real experiences within a classroom, but I believe it has helped me to become a better educator,” said Mintz, who is in the first phase of student teaching.
However, some students come out of their internship lacking a connection to their chosen field and decide to rethink their career goals.
“I had a ton of requirements including lesson plans, teaching, planning, trainings and so much more during my internship senior year” said Morgan Barradale, a recent Winthrop graduate from Fort Mill, S.C.
“During my internship, I realized that teaching is not what I wanted to pursue so I was able to change my career path before graduating.”
Barradale said, after her internship, she decided to change her major to special education, in order to focus on a career in occupational therapy.
However, there are some programs at Winthrop that don’t require an internship, which some say may be a disadvantage.
Meghan Militello, who graduated from Winthrop with a degree in English, said she regrets not having an internship during her undergraduate career.
“I wish I had been required to do one, because it would have motivated me to actually be more proactive and plan for the future” said Militello, a native of Columbia, S.C.
Corie Fletcher, a finance student from Hilton Head, S.C., said she decided to take 20-hour-a-week internship, although it wasn’t required.
“I did not have to complete an internship for my degree, but many professors said that it would help lead to a job after graduation,” Fletcher said.
“Although I do think that internships should be required by all majors, I think the requirements should be made feasible to balance school, an internship and a job.”
The Center for Career and Civic Engagement Center also suggests students take the time to build relationships with professors and other mentors, who can help students make professional connections.