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Instead of getting into work-mode after a relaxing summer, many Penn students are simply switching gears — from summer jobs or internships to fall classes.

The majority of Penn undergraduates either worked, volunteered or found internships during their summers, according to surveys conducted by Career Services last year. According to Wharton counselor Barbara Hewitt, Penn students have been accepting unpaid internships both this year and last, in part because of a difficult economy.

“Every year that’s certainly something that students struggle with. Students are willing to forgo the pay for the experience, and can do something on the side that might give them some money over the summer,” Hewitt said.

In response to concern that companies were taking advantage of interns, The US Department of Labor reissued labor guidelines in the spring.

For an internship to be unpaid under the Fair Labor Standards Act, training must be similar to that given in an educational institution, must benefit the intern and should not displace regular employees. Some employers offer internships in exchange for college credit.

Hewitt said she received several phone calls from prominent employers last year, saying that while they would normally offer paid internships, the economy forced them to offer unpaid ones. However, she said she felt that more Penn students were able to find paid internships this year versus last because she hadn’t received any such phone calls this summer. She noted that Career Services hasn’t yet collected raw data about this summer’s activities.

Rising College Senior Laura Keen is interning in New York at Forbes Magazine.

“The difficulties of an unpaid internship are obvious: you have to content yourself with a pat on the back and the promise of a glittering resume when you could easily be earning actual money waiting tables instead. The on the job experience is obviously invaluable as well, but most of the big payoffs of unpaid internships are not immediate,” Keen wrote in an e-mail.

She explained that most of her friends who are also New York are working in finance — most of whom were “exhausted, overworked, and growing cynical.”

Even as an unpaid intern, Keen said she had “learned some incredibly useful things about the business as a whole.”

Rising College sophomore Kim Condino worked 40 hours a week as a marketing intern at Allergan, a pharmaceutical company in Irvine, California. Though she said she’d “like to be paid,” she felt that the connections she made and work experience were worth her time.

Condino lived at home and worked up to 15 hours on the weekends at a cafe — if she hadn’t, she “wouldn’t have been able to afford” her internship, she said.

Rising College sophomore Ally Fox said she preferred her unpaid internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to other paid opportunities because she was able to work according to her schedule, and continue to take classes over the summer. She added that many of her friends who were searching for paid internships “ended up finding something, but it took a while” and many found them at the last minute before the summer.

But for those who were searching for a paid internship and didn’t find one this summer, Hewitt remains optimistic, likening the job market to a “pendulum that goes from employers having more leverage to students having more leverage.”

She added that this year, as compared to last year there are definitely more paid internships in the financial sector, although in the “technical sectors it’s been a slower rebound.”

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