This column is new to Argus starting this semester. The word ‘globalization’ has long been defining the world we live in. The borders between nations are slowly fading away and frequent interactions are seen around the world. With every nation and citizen sharing their unique and special cultures and ways of thinking, getting to know these differences are pretty interesting. This column, Brain Swap, will discuss a topic and show what university students around the world think about it. Through this column, we hope Argus readers at HUFS will learn more about the world... Ed.
The Argus this month had a chance to work with The Scholars’ Avenue, the campus newspaper of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India. Internship experiences are highly valued in Korea and around the world where there is high competition in the job market.
India, with a population of 1,205,073,612 people, has a unique culture which seems distant from the Korean culture. What do students in India think about internships? Are internships big in India, too? With surveys and an information exchange with The Scholars’ Avenue, it was interesting to find out that, even with different cultural backgrounds, university students share some similar ideas. What do we think? What do they think?
Can I be your intern?
“What should I do after I graduate?” “What do I like to do?” Many Korean university students question themselves and worry about their futures. They also seem to be pressured to try for an internship as it is becoming more of a requirement than an opportunity in society. What do you think of the current internship system? How are university students in other countries doing in this confusing, but also exciting period?
Korean and Indian student interns
India, like Korea, is a fast growing country that has gained so much in such a short amount of time. Korea has been recognized as having one of the fastest economic growths from the 1960s to the late 1990s. India is part of the BRIC nations, or the four countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, which hold great economic growth potentials. Competition is high in Indian job markets and the desire for higher education is similar to that of Korea. Curiosity arises in what university students, who are in somewhat of a same, but quite different culture, think about internships. The surveys and interviews completed jointly by The Argus and The Scholars’ Avenue, the campus newspaper of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur, show some interesting results.
HUFSans and students from IIT seem to have had some good experiences from their internships. Among HUFSans who have been interns, 75.94% of the students were satisfied with their internships, while 18.05% were not. This high rate of satisfaction was shared with the Indian students, where 82.35% of the students had a good internship experience and 17.64% had not. What is more, those who were satisfied with their work were content because 80% of HUFSans and 57.14% of the Indian students reportedly gained various types of experience. Ironically, the common notion that internships help with developing students’ interest in their career was shattered in this survey as only 8.57% of Korean students and 28.57% of Indian students answered that the experience helped with their future careers. In addition, few of the students seemed to be looking for financial benefits when they worked for companies as interns.
During the third and fourth year of university is the most popular time for students to apply for internships as reported by 79.23% of the Korean and 96.15% of the Indian students. However, it is common for Korean students to take a leave of absence for a semester to work as an intern while the Indian system is a little different. “No leave of absence. That system is not prevalent here. University curriculums are generally rigid and, unfortunately, don’t allow for such internships,” said Chirag Tibrewal, the Executive Editor of The Scholars’ Avenue. The internship periods vary depending on the company, but Indian students usually have two and a half months of summer vacation stretching from May to July when they go for internships. Shorter internships are available during the one month winter vacation.
What are some elements that companies look for when they hire student interns? Multiple factors are considered, but the most important factor Korean students saw was their passion and interest for the work (39.08%). Similarly, the need for passion was the same in India (32.25%). Work related majors are another important factor for internships in both countries as reported by 19.95% of Korean students and 19.35% of Indian students. Students have the idea that passion and education in one field will help them get an internship, but still feel a lot of pressure to have various experiences written on their CVs.
It is controversial whether the whole internship system was created for the benefit of corporations or for students’ educations. In this survey, 46.72% of Korean students believed that it actually helps both companies and students, while 25.68% answered that internships are all created for companies. Interestingly, 76% Indian students thought internships were positive for students. Only 20.77% of Korean students thought the experience benefits the students.
What are the problems that we should consider?
Even though many HUFSans and IIT students had positive internship experiences, they still believe that there are problems with the current internship system in each country. 40.71% of Korean students and 64% of Indian students admitted that there are problems, while only 17.49% of Koreans and 25% of Indians said there were not. Others said they were not sure. Many of the problems are related to the quality of work in Korea. Some students complained that the work interns have to complete is so trivial that they are not getting enough practical work experience. A student mentioned, “All the high qualifications you have to fulfill are useless for real work.” Tibrewal thinks that this is subjective. “It depends on the company. In some cases, it can vary even within a company. I’d say that this is mostly about how seriously the company looks at their internship system.”
What is more, some students think that the whole purpose of gaining work experience from internships now is lost and that it is only done to fill in the blank spots in CVs. “I feel the pressure to apply for internships and such because everyone does it and I’ll lose in the competition if I don’t,” said a student from the Department of Romanian. Both Korean and Indian students are pressured to have work experience on their CVs to gain competitiveness in the job market. At the same time, they also have to figure out what they like and want to do. No guiding system exists for the students. “People randomly apply to many places and then avail themselves of whatever opportunity comes their way,” said Tibrewal. As many Indian students pointed out in the survey, this leads to the problem of a mismatch of talent. A lack of internship opportunities aggravates this situation for Indian students.
What about the wage? Are the students getting paid enough for their work? Both Korean and Indian students who took the survey seem to have little problem with the pay as only 9.4% of Korean students and 4% of Indian students pointed it out as their reason for discontentment. In Korea, interns are usually paid 80% of the salary that a new employee would get. In India, in most cases, the wage will be just enough for basic sustenance, which can be 10% to 50% of the salary a new employee would get. “Perhaps most companies don’t view internships as such a huge value addition in India. They will still have a lot of talented people knocking on their doors anyway,” Tibrewal added.
Despite the cultural differences that people may assume, university students in the two countries, India and Korea, are found to have similar ideas and anxieties on internship. As it is seen, some problems, such as the mismatch of talent, lack of a quality working system and the social pressure to have an internship experience prevails in both countries. Internships are big around the world nowadays. For these experiences to be mutually beneficial for both the students and companies, more efforts should be made to better organize the internship system.
The Scholars’ Avenue is an independent student-run campus newspaper of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. It is the first IIT established in India and is recognized as an Institute of National Importance by the government of India. The Scholars’ Avenue is founded in 2005 and its copies are now delivered to all students on campus and soft copies are mailed to the entire faculty and several thousand alumni.
That means more than 10,000 students on campus and over 20,000 alumni worldwide. The team is drawn entirely from among the students of the institute and its mission is to report and anlyze events that affect the campus and to be the voice of the IIT Kharagpur student community. The articles in The Scholars’ Avenue have been referenced in national media outlets; most recently in The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and The Telegraph.