20 Of The Worst Internship Experiences Revealed
Internships are, in general, either useful experiences that prepare a student/recent graduate for a full-time job and arm them with the knowledge and background to be considered a competitive hire, or they’re a soul-sucking nightmare in which the intern is paid nothing to carry out menial tasks like trapping rats and refilling staplers. Feeling down about your own bad experience? Here are 20 terrible internship experiences, courtesy of Reddit, that will make you feel less alone.
1. “I shot a commercial for a Chinese company last month. Half of the time on our shoot was spent on them rearranging people in the office so you could only see the white people.” — machzel08
2. “I was told I’d be doing a lot of field work with the engineers. Site surveys, general support, whatever. Instead I scanned documents for eight hours a day. Every day. That was literally my only function. But at least it paid better than my previous job getting shopping carts.” — imhungry213
3. “I worked for a museum. They had me as unpaid labor, tilling the fields, pulling weeds, and wearing a janitor’s uniform, working alongside the janitors. I’m a history major, there were open displays that needed staffing (even empty rooms and empty displays), and plenty more volunteer spots. I quit.” — Imightbeflirting
4. “For my MSc, we had to do one week of curation experience in the natural history museum partnered with my college. The morning everyone picked what job they wanted to do, I overslept. Ended up barcoding folios of brown seaweed in the basement. (No, not DNA barcoding or anything cool — just the sticky label kind).
There are some quite pretty brown seaweeds, but I was allocated the ten million specimens of the one species which looks like a little dried-up blob of shit.” — gomphus
5. “While getting my master’s in library science, I did my internship at a corporate prison… Yes, there are libraries, and law libraries, in prisons.
I wanted to work exclusively in the law library but ended up mostly in the reading library. The woman I worked with had colon cancer and wouldn’t admit it. She would nod off from pain meds with prisoners in the room. Apparently they’d had to call 911 several times for her. She went out on extended leave while I was there and I had to take her shifts, meaning working directly with prisoners with no backup, and no training as regards prison regulations. I’ll come back to this.
The guy I worked with was simply a security risk. He openly admitted to the prison “trusty” guys (in effect, prisoners trusted enough that their job was to work in the library) that he would smuggle in library supplies. BIG no-no.
Anyway, while I was taking over a shift for the colon cancer lady, one of the prisoners started to masturbate through his pants directly and deliberately in my line of sight. One of the trustys [sic] called a guard, I wrote a report, and I was assured the perpetrator masturbator would be in solitary for at least a week. The next day the tables were removed from the library, but the guy was out of solitary. He stared me down for the last 15 minutes the library was open.” — mrsxpando
6. I interned on the admin staff of a touring group and we traveled with a large convoy of vehicles. I typically got stuck driving one of those huge 14-person vans for eight hours after working all day. Late one night, I saw a car clip one of our semi trucks and go sliding off the road, eventually rolling over a couple of times into a ditch. I was scared of what I would see when I pulled over to check on the driver. Turns out the asshole was unhurt, but very drunk. I had to sit around and wait for emergency to give my statement. Along the course of the summer I also was rear-ended, run off the road by a truck, and had my brakes completely go out on the highway. — the_rev_28
7. “I interned at a well-known global advertising agency. They literally put me in a corner; there was an old G3 Mac (this was about two years ago, so it was pretty outdated) and for the entire summer I got maybe two projects to work on. An example of how bad it was: one of my projects was updating a logo for a real estate agency. I worked on a few logo samples and went to the creative director to show him my progress; he then told me that I should show my work to the lead designer on this project. When I confronted the lead designer about the project and showed him my work, he wasn't even aware I was working on the project or that this project was even ‘active.'” — hishoax
8. “I interned for one of the 100 U.S. Senators. I was a young eager freshman in college with my life ahead of me. However, this was right after Obama won the election.
Every intern was assigned a Legislative Assistant to work with and shadow. The one I was assigned to got a job with the Department of Transportation, so there was nothing he was going to let me do other than answer phones for him.
Since I was also the youngest intern, I was regularly delegated to answering phones. People who answer phones for a senator in a rather popular state get nothing but screamed at. I’ve been called a Nazi, Communist, Dick-Sucker, Antichrist, Fucker, Pig Fucker, wished I was dead. I’ve also been directly threatened over the phone more times than I can count.
Regardless, the new Legislative Assistant came in and decided he didn’t need me. My entire tenure at the internship was 16 hours per week getting screamed at via the phones.” — KibblesnBitts
9. “I just finished a 12-week internship. Six weeks into the internship, the new full-time hires arrived to start working. My worst experience was on my second to last day when one of them got fired after working for less than a month and a half. She had moved halfway across the country to start her life and career. It was a sad thing to see.” — Iamalone289
10. “I did an office internship for a small comic publishing company. It was supposed to be to learn how a company like that runs, but it was basically just grunt work. I had to fold 600+ shirts in dead silence in the back room (to make sure I hear the doorbell), and had to do things like oil hinges.” — PlasticGirl
11. “I’m doing an internship where my boss has tried to, in the past week, teach me how to do a Google search, copy and paste something in a Word document, and enter information into an Excel spreadsheet. For real.
During an event that the office was doing, she had me go tell the caterers to put out more tiny water bottles. Apparently after I spoke to them they still didn’t put enough out, so she came over and yelled at me. Now I’m required to carry around a notepad so I don’t ‘forget anything else.'” — eliaviv
12. “I was hired as an intern at a semi-prominent dinner theater in Florida. It was run by a crazy couple — one was the star of half the shows, the other ran the business end of the theater. (They were both supposed to be semi-retired, but micromanaged the shit out of the place.) I was hired on as an admin/stage management intern. I was told I’d attend some rehearsals, do a couple of hours in the office, then work the show. When I got there, I discovered the internship was eight hours in the box office serving customers followed by four hours backstage. Six days a week. No time for rehearsal — we need you on the phones! They fed us a company dinner, which was nice — except, hey, did I mention the rats?
HOLY FUCK, THE RATS. See, the theater was run on such thin margins that they apparently couldn’t afford to shut down for a week to deal with the horrific infestation of RATS THE SIZE OF MY ARM. They couldn’t put down poison because the rats would get into it and into the food and they could potentially kill someone. They couldn't lay down traps because rats don't die quietly, and a dying rat during a quiet moment in a show would not go over well with the blue-hair locals that made up the bulk of their clientele.
I was supposed to be learning something, but all I learned was that theater people can be painfully deluded. Me included. I met big “direct from Broadway!” stars that couldn’t pay to get their abscessed teeth fixed, whose cars broke down every other day, whose lives sounded horrible — and everyone even vaguely comfortable was subsidized by a parent or spouse…. Everyone was so fucking overworked and sad. After a while, I didn't even want to try and learn anything in the office because business-owner tended to fly off the handle and scream at the office manager if she said two words out of turn.
Anyway, after a while I finally quit in a heap of tears and drama. Not proud of it, but hey. A few years later, I learned that they'd shut the place down — their lease ran out and it turns out a parking lot was more profitable, so the landlord had razed the whole place to the ground. Fitting end. Bastards were two miles from the beach and I was so overworked that I never even saw it.” — captainthrowaway11
13. “Not my experience, but pretty horrific nonetheless. I was in NYC for a few days, and being that there are no convenient public bathrooms in Times Square, the good people at Charmin had seized upon this opportunity and rented some space on the second floor of a building where they installed a couple dozen premium port-a-johns. People were lined up down the stairs waiting to take a shitpiss, and between uses, each stall was quickly cleaned up by one of many early college-aged marketing interns at Charmin. These poor bastards were stuck wiping up piss all day, and to make their lives worse the Charmin theme song was played on a consistent 30-second loop over loudspeakers. One had been assigned the task of wearing the Charmin Bear suit and bouncing around jovially, taking pictures with kids like they were at an excrement theme park. Hopefully it dissuaded some of them from a career in marketing.” — LanceCoolie
14. “I was interning at a Sports physical therapy place for a project in high school. Basically, all I did was A) laundry and B) put towels on the benches.
Except for the one day I was asked to massage this woman’s swollen, bulging, red, cherry-stained post-surgery kneecap while the therapist “ran to get ice.” Did he run to Antarctica or what, because I was forced to massage that lady's kneecap for like… 15 minutes, all the while hearing “I just don’t know why it’s so swollen” over. And over. And over.” — DiverGuy
15. “In high school, me and two of my classmates all interned at the local zoo/animal shelter. The zoo was made up of reject animals from other zoos that had too many. The first day, we randomly were placed under different supervisors — I was the lucky one. I spent time with iguanas, giant tortoise, and miniature horses. I was even able to get ridiculously close to a tiger. My one friend worked with the area that handled the cats and dogs up for adoption and got really badly attacked by a cat. My third friend ended up doing odd jobs like construction and taking the carcasses of dead dogs to the on-site incinerator.” — bergertree
16. “My last semester in college, I had to do a student teaching internship to earn my degree. It was by far the worst experience of my life. I was placed in a seventh grade geography class (which was the wrong class and out of my subject field at the time) with a teacher who was in her 23rd year (two years out of retirement in Alabama). As soon as I began teaching the class, she would leave and either go home or God knows where. She would come back about 10 minutes before the dismissal bell and then try to critique my teaching. Ultimately gave me a C for the class. Before that internship, I had a 3.85 GPA. She alone ruined my senior year of college and made me question my career choice. Thankfully, I stuck with it and now have my own 10th grade U.S. History class, and I LOVE getting up to go to work every single day.” — Ozymandias_13
17. “So I know this is an age-old story (legal intern comes in expecting to go to trial and ends up filing papers type thing) but my situation is somewhat different. I interned at a law firm last summer, a paid internship by the way, and learned about all the nitty gritty details of how a firm works. I spent eight hours a day, six days a week filing, entering info into the computer, running the mail room, helping attorneys with random tasks, etc. for an entire summer. This summer, I signed up for a program my university puts on in which a coordinator set me up at an unpaid internship in Washington, D.C. The program is pretty expensive, and I signed up believing I’d have this invaluable experience and come out with some solid rec letters and knowledge about what lawyers actually do. As it turns out, the firm has never had an intern and truly has no idea what to do with me. I’m learning absolutely nothing and doing absolutely nothing. They occasionally give me tasks, but from what I can tell, those tasks are unnecessary and of no help whatsoever to the employees (e.g., writing down all the files in an office even though the firm already has a list detailing which files are in which office). It’s more like they feel bad and just want to give me something to do so I don’t just sit in a corner all day. I talked to my supervisor, who said she’d try to find me some projects to get started on, but it’s been three weeks and I’ve still done/learned nothing. At this point, I’d even be happy just to file papers. I’m trying very hard to stay positive, but I’ve now spent a month sitting at a desk counting the seconds until six o’clock hits. I ask if anyone in the office needs help with anything pretty often (I try to restrain myself from asking too much because I don't want to be that annoying intern), but everyone keeps telling me they don’t have anything for me to do.” — ilovemuffins49
18. “One of the worst internship experiences I’ve had was… part of a mandatory program for juniors in my high school. A pair of students were sent to companies of parents; in my case, I had chosen [this location] because I believe that it would be beneficial towards my future in med.
I asked to be placed in marketing (where they detail and advertise machines that treat medical disorders). Instead, my passive partner gets placed into marketing and I get placed into IT. I ended up teaching English and drawing posters like “Do Not Disturb” on A4 paper for the employees. Really sucked. 0/10 wouldn't do again.” — Kemicx
19. “I’ve done multiple internships in the music industry and one in particular was exceptionally terrible. I wasn’t paid, had to pick up cigarettes and food for the employees, had to clean up the basement of the venue, and more. It was absolutely terrible and they made no effort whatsoever to help place me in a job in the music industry. At many of my other internships, they were unpaid, but they notified me when they heard about a job and I actually learned something from them.” — americanwaterrr
20. “My worst internship experience: not getting one :(” — brownmagician