Interns Anonymous

My name is Dylan, and I was an intern.

I once paid money to participate in an internship. I admit it. The promise of working with great white sharks drew me in, hook, line, and sinker. You know the ones; they promise to be conducting ground breaking research, and you…Yes…You! J. Doe from landlocked middle America who isn’t quite sure what they want to do with their life. You can be a part of it. It’s your chance at a dream job. Shark biologist.

And your Instagram, just imagine the followers that will flock when they see your feed! Shoveling chum and throwing shakas with jaws!

Shaka, ASL for I'm volunteering.
Shaka. American Sign Language (ASL) for “I’m volunteering”

What am I Volunteering for?

I’m using the words internship and volunteer here interchangeably, because let’s be honest – they’re basically the same SEO keywords. Meant to attract eager college students looking for that summer resumé builder. But is what you are getting really an internship? Can you be volunteering if you have to pay for it? These are questions you need to be asking yourself. If I’m interning, then I want to be paidt! What does volunteering with great white sharks even mean? Do they need schools to be built for them?

Is the internship for me, or them?

Here’s another question you should be asking yourself. Who is benefiting here? Sure, I might be having a lot of fun, and the FOMO is real. But what am I getting out of it? Am I just free labor?

In my own experience I had to step back and ask myself: What skills did I learn? And the answer wasn’t pretty. “None that I didn’t teach myself.”

I had fun, and made some great friends. But it was more of a vacation than anything.

Cape RADD Student

John Esposito

2018 Cape RADD Student

“The third week … taught me how to use different computer programs to analyse the data we collected and create maps … We worked with R which helped us to create programs that measured biodiversity, and QGIS which helped us to create maps of the local topography.”

Read about his time here!

Get to the point. What are you saying?

Students need experience outside of their college education. There’s no denying that. It builds character and provides opportunities to work with a team, learn new skills, and hone old ones. What I’m saying is, if you wan’t an internship, find one! Find a competitive placement that rewards your hard work with a paid position, an opportunity to learn and the possibility for future work. If you want to volunteer, give your time! Don’t pay for the opportunity to work.

Maybe what you’re looking for is actually a field course. And if so, make sure the course is for you. Will the content be relevant to your interests? Will I learn something?

Our small class sizes and selection of course modules on offer at Cape RADD allow us to uniquely cater the course to each student. We spend our time split between the classroom, and putting the knowledge and skills taught from the classroom to use in the field. You are paying for tangible skills in software like QGIS and R, and improving your confidence as a diver. The experience and research participation comes for free.

Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black?

Hey, get out of here narrator. No, I’m calling it a Field Course.

Are we right for you?

Dylan Irion

Dylan is a marine scientist and Save Our Seas Foundation project leader, working towards a PhD that aims to unravel the drivers of white shark population dynamics in South Africa. He is a passionate freediver and SCUBA diver, and volunteers as a Sea Rescue crew member.


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