Financing Your Internship

by Rachel Zavala

The Friedman School will be offering students internship funding from two endowed scholarship programs this year, but overall scholarship funding is projected to remain the same as last year, according to Stacey Herman, Director of Student Affairs.

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous established an additional scholarship fund this year, which will be used to offset financial losses from the original endowment fund due to the weak economic climate.

“We have a bigger class this year to fund, so this endowment will be used to help us sustain and maintain our internship funding,” Herman said. “This is not meant to fund the entire internship, but is meant to help with expenses.”

Last year 28 students applied for an internship scholarship, and 27 received funding ranging from $250 to $800. The one student who did not receive a scholarship was funded by her organization, says Lori Ioannone, assistant director of student affairs.

She adds that students interning domestically generally received $500, while those traveling abroad typically received $800. However, she stressed that those figures were guidelines and used as a starting point to determine funding, and change each year. Students interning in Boston are not eligible to receive scholarships.

To receive an internship scholarship students must fill out an application. The application requires an essay explaining why students have chosen their respective internship and how it will be a valuable learning experience related to their field of study, as well as a resume, cover letter, and detailed outline of expenses. Herman said that preference is not given to students interning internationally, however, they tend to incur more expenses due to airfare and other travel expenses, vaccinations, housing, and food costs.

“We try to give most students something,” Herman said. “This is the frustrating part, the need is high, and while the resources are good, we can’t meet all the needs of the requests.”

Both Herman and Ioannone said that many factors are considered when the scholarship committee convenes to review applications, including the total amount of expenses, if the organization is partially funding the student, and how the internship is related to the student’s course of study. The committee is comprised of Tim Griffin, PhD, program director Agriculture, Food, and Environment program, Beatrice Rogers, PhD, program director of Food, Policy, and Applied Nutrition, Jeanne Goldberg, PhD, program director of Nutrition Communications, Herman and Ioannone.

Ioannone advises students to “do your research and be realistic about living expenses…be transparent in what other resources and potential funding you may receive.” She adds that students “have to convince us that you are deserving of the money. Put time into making [your] application as descriptive and complete as possible.”

Some students completing their internship last year felt the application process was “unclear,” and the school did not adequately inform students of how much funding they could expect.

According to Willa Brown, who interned for UNICEF India last year and was based in Jaipur, Rajasthan, “we were expected to provide a detailed, item-by-item budget, which would have been reasonable except that everyone more or less got the same amount in the end regardless of their proposed expenditures.”

Ioannone responds that “being fair and consistent” is the most challenging aspect of determining scholarship funding. “Obviously we have so many things to consider…it is a tricky situation to asses an application on its own, and compare it to someone going to the same place.”

Recognizing that “there are not a lot of possibilities for [internship] funding,” Herman recommends that students “think outside the traditional salary box” and ask their internship coordinator if the organization can help subsidize transportation costs, or offer food or housing stipends.

“It is a hard thing to negotiate, and can put you in an uncomfortable situation. Wait until you see how much scholarship money you get, then piece it together, showing [your organization] that you have made an effort to get scholarships,” she says.

Ioannone recommends sending the organization the link to the scholarship description, which may make them “more apt to offer” financing when they see how detailed the requirements are and know they are getting “the best of the best.”

Meanwhile, this summer, for the first time the Friedman School will permit students to register their internship as a course worth zero credits, keeping them as active students eligible to receive student loans. Herman said this move was made “in response to the need that students have to fund their internship.”

Students who have completed their internship recommend utilizing friends and family for financing or housing opportunities. Juli Huddleston, who interned with HealthBarn USA in New York City last summer, advises students to “start saving up now” and  “taking advantage of friends, family, etc. that you may know in the location of your internship for advice or help with lowering costs.”

Brown threw herself a benefit brunch in her hometown in Maine, which raised a total of $900 dollars to cover extraneous expenses in India. However, she regards financing the internship a “sore point.”

“It seems unreasonable to me that we are at once expected to fulfill substantial internship requirements and also are largely responsible for self-financing. One could choose a paid internship closer to home; however, that doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the school or the student, especially if Friedman has ambition to establish itself as a globally-recognized institution,” she says.

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