This article is part of a series that elaborates on student perspectives and propositions regarding salient issues at Maastricht University from members of the EDLAB Student Advisory Board. This specific article focuses on the issue of making Internship opportunities more accessible and was written by ESAB members Kornelija Zilionyte, Stefan Holzheuser, Jasper Ringelmann, and Milena Bredelsmann.
Internships stand as an opportunity to practice the knowledge received from the university, and even to prepare for the future career endeavors. They constitute an essential part of the curriculum of any young professional. Sadly, not all students get access to this opportunity. To begin with different faculties at Maastricht University have each their own internship policy. Positions are often offered only for the specific program. A limited number of the internships offered by specific faculties are announced on the UM Vacancy Board. However, some of the faculties prefer to share such internships only with the students of the specific faculty, or program, which limits the options available to the UM students.
It is necessary to explain that internships are different from traineeships since the latter is often chosen voluntarily, while internships are part of the academic curriculum in many faculties. Although the difference is important, it is highly unfortunate that many practical opportunities are often generally not accessible to certain students due to a lack of information. To specify, many students do not consider internships as a value added due to their complexity to arrange, or simply as they do not know where to search for such opportunities.
Several student-led initiatives address this topic. For instance, the well-known ELSA (European Law Students Association) organization has its own internship program known as ‘STEP’ offering various legal internships to law students. Another significant example is a law student-led initiative known as ‘INTERaction’, aiming to connect students worldwide. One of the activities offered by this initiative are legal internships, widely related to human rights. It is important to address that the internship programs offered by such organizations have not been announced on the UM Vacancy Board, which significantly limits the accessibility for other students. Once again, the same issue also appears when internships are only offered within specific programs, while they could be interesting for students from several other programs as well. For instance, law students could potentially qualify for internships concerning public policy, while public policy students could potentially succeed in internships offered by the international business program.
As a result, to solve the accessibility difficulties of students to those internship opportunities, the UM Vacancy Board could serve as a platform, unifying all relevant initiatives. This would require more flexibility in announcing such options, better communication with the internal and external parties, and revising the existing internship criteria of each faculty. Finally, it would require increased cooperation between faculties while opening doors to students who would like to specialize in familiar, but not necessarily purely program-based fields.
The Situation at UM
The first search result when searching for “Internships Maastricht University” on Google leads straight to the page of the School of Business and Economics (Maastricht University, n.d.-a). On this website, one is directed to the UM Vacancy Board, where there are at the time of writing this, 96 internship opportunity listings. Of those, 67 are only available to students who study Business and Economics or affiliate programs. The vast majority of internships are located either in Germany (41) or the Netherlands (31). In addition, the language requirements for those internships are dominated by English (43), German (27) and Dutch (17). In terms of education level required, 67 of the internships require a Bachelor degree, 53 require a Master degree and 24 require an Applied Sciences Bachelor. The second result from the Google search in fact does not aim at students at all, but rather serves as a platform for employers to discover what to expect from students from different faculties at Maastricht University (Maastricht University, n.d.-b).
To conclude, all faculties of Maastricht University will transfer one straight to the UM Vacancy Board when searching for internship opportunities. The opportunities on said Vacancy Board prove helpful to varying degrees, depending on what faculty students are from and what background they have.
Student Experiences at UM
In order to create a bigger picture beyond the experiences of the few students working on this report, a short survey was conducted. This survey does not claim to be representative and was aimed to briefly receive more opinions on experiences with internships while studying at UM.
Of the 29 people who responded to the survey, 11 had done an internship during their time at university and 16 said they had not (two participants did not answer this question). Overall a general willingness to include an internship in their studies is illustrated as 13 of the 16 participants without internship experience plan on doing one in the future. The main reason for not planning to do an internship is that the process of finding an internship is perceived as rather complicated. Overall, this was mentioned by all respondents as one of the reasons that might prevent students from participating in an internship (see Figure 1). Other reasons given by respondents were: “Very difficult to find a faculty supervisor”; “the curriculum is not flexible enough” and “UM staff made it seem like the worse choice compared to studying abroad and emphasized the difficulty of having to organize everything themselves”.