Exploited: A Look at an International Student’s Internship Experience

For international students, finding an internship can be extremely difficult. This means that more and more international students are agreeing to partake in highly exploitative and illegal internship experiences in order to get their foot in the door. We spoke with Cynthia, a third year UNSW media student from China about her internship she recently quit.

Of her experience, she said, “I was recently interning in a media company and I knew immediately that I was being exploited. When I first interviewed for the position, the manager who ran the ‘internship program’ advised me that I would be working alongside the Account Coordinators, getting to learn all of the software programmes, as well as attend a range of training sessions. It sounded fantastic, so of course I accepted the position. On my first day interning, I immediately regretted it.”

“I was made to do admin duties three days a week from 9am – 5:30pm. I was asked to clean, answer phones, and get coffee for the staff. I was never taught anything, and any task I was given that was actually work related was extremely menial.”

Cynthia interned unpaid at the agency for three months before she eventually decided to quit. “I didn’t know that interns had legal rights when it came to exploitative internships. I wish I had of known, as I would have stood up for myself sooner, and maybe I would have had a more enjoyable experience.”

Ultimately, knowing your legal rights is the best way to prevent exploitation. After talking to Cynthia about her legal rights, she said that “next time I apply for an internship, I feel like i’ll be more confident in being able to see the signs of exploitation, and know that I can seek help and advice from governing bodies.”


Written by Miao Wang


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