Should I Feel Guilty That I Can Afford an Unpaid Internship?

No one would ever walk up to a friend on financial aid and accuse her parents of being lazy, good-for-nothing, bad parents for not making enough money to send her to college. Yet people feel completely comfortable going up to a friend with an unpaid internship and accusing her of being a spoiled brat because she’s fortunate enough to be able to afford spending a summer making no money.

Don’t think that’s true? Just read the comments on almost any internship post on this site (like this one or this one).

I had two unpaid internships in NYC and I can’t even count the number of times people told me “it’s ridiculous that your parents are just letting you live in the city and make no money.” But was it ridiculous? In today’s world you’re expected to graduate with internship experience and if my parents decided to spend their hard-earned money paying for me to live in NYC and reach my dreams, was it wrong for me to take that opportunity? Should I have spent my summer waitressing instead? I don’t want to come off like a whiny bitch, but I want some answers on why I should feel bad that my family can afford this. Isn’t complaining about unpaid internships the same as complaining to a friend when her family goes on a week long resort vacation?

Everyone can choose how they want to spend their money and my parents chose to forgo fancy family vacations and buying me designer clothes so that I could get the most out of my college education. I appreciated how fortunate I was every day and I did work menial jobs part-time during my summer internships to make money for the school year, but that never stopped people from making accusations.

While I completely agree with the fact that the unpaid internship system is completely unfair because it gives well-off kids yet another career advantage that their other classmates can’t afford, I also think it’s unfair to expect people to not take these internships. And I don’t think it’s fair to make people feel guilty because they happen to be fortunate (assuming they’re not arrogant and entitled and making Facebook statuses that say “living off my parents”).

After graduation my internships paid off and I landed an awesome job as a blog editor. Yet people still assume it’s okay to come up to me and say things like “Blog editor? Guess your parents are still supporting you.” Not only do I constantly have to remind people that a blog editor is a legitimate, fully-salaried position in 2010, but that it’s no one’s business who was paying my rent. No one ever  goes up to my friends in grad school and says “Med school for 9 years? Guess your parents are still paying your rent.” Why do people think it’s okay for parents to spend tens of thousands of dollars on law school, but not spend a few thousand to let me spend two summers interning to reach my career goals?

In the end isn’t all about parents doing whatever they can to help their children be successful and happy?

Do It Yourself Tuesdays: Vinyl Record Bookend
Do It Yourself Tuesdays: Vinyl Record Bookend
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