UAE student Diren Kalwani interned at an apparel manufacturer in Jordan Image Credit: Supplied

If you’re a high school student in the 11th or 12th grade, now is the time to start thinking about ways to make the most of any free time you may have this year, and not just laze around the beach for hours in a day. It is not enough for a student to just be smart nowadays to get admitted into a top university. Universities want to see what a student can do outside of the classroom and in the real world. Certain students in a grade may graduate with similar grades, but what is it that really differentiates one from the other when an admissions officer sees the applications side by side? An internship is one option for students who want to stand out from the thousands of others.

Students in the UAE pursue internships on weekends in term-time and over the holidays to get work experience even if it’s just for a month. “An internship certainly makes an applicant stand out from the rest," says Waqas Ahmed, Director of Enrolment at Hult International Business School's Dubai campus. "So absolutely, it makes a difference. It doesn’t mean that universities won’t accept students without any internships, but it definitely has an edge.

“Even if they worked with their family businesses or went to help any organisation with their social impact projects, that counts.”

Teenagers are doing their best to understand the professions they want to pursue before really getting into it at university. Arun Anand, 16, is an 11th-grade student at Millenium High School Dubai. He aims to pursue corporate law in the future and is interning at Goodwins Law Corporation UAE.

“The sheer amount of research and work that goes in every single day at the law firm gives me the push towards achieving the goals I have set for myself. The very notion of jurisprudence brings about a sense of eagerness in me,” Anand says. Writing articles for various events and about the corporation as a whole is a major part of his internship. 

Devanand Mahadeva, Director of Goodwins Law Corporation UAE, says, “Goodwins has been accepting interns since its inception in the UAE. We do recommend that students do internships before heading off to college as it will give an actual understanding about the profession before they want take it up as a career.”

Many intern at various organisations in the UAE such as PR agencies and hospitals. Some even have the chance to travel abroad. Diren Kalwani, a 16-year-old student at the International School of Choueifat in Dubai, is currently interning in Jordan at an apparel and fashion company that produces garments for various brands.

“I have mainly worked with the mechanical team and I’ve learnt a lot about the field of mechanical engineering that I haven’t had the chance to practically delve into at school," Kalwani says. "What I love about this internship is the hands-on experience I’ve gained. I had many responsibilities but one of the most important was to replace huge vessels in the boiler which requires extreme detail and precision, as one mistake could literally blow up the factory.”

Kalwani says he also works closely with the HR, storage, and accounts department, as well as with the managers of the factory who have allowed him to understand the overall workings of a factory.

If you thought medicine was a potential career choice after a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy made you suddenly want to be a doctor, you could intern at one of the clinics or hospitals in Dubai for a couple of months. You might end up loving it or just completely dismissing the idea, which is completely fine because at least you didn’t end up going through with it to realise you never liked it in the first place.

‘’Any internship or work during summer shows how committed and focused a candidate is. Of course, we know it is a long journey ahead and that they might not be sure as to what they want to choose for their careers once they graduate. However, any work done in the summer shows our admissions committee that applicants want to know the world and how it works, and their mindset will be more practical than the candidates with no internships on their resume,” says Ahmed.

The new school year is rolling in and now is the time to start thinking about the future and doing something significant for colleges to look at. The last few years of high school are the most crucial in terms of academics and extracurricular activities.

If you are decided on a major, an internship would be a great way to understand the job you hope to be doing, and to prepare for the future. Even if you aren’t too sure of what you want to do, take up something interesting. It'll help in the long run!

5 things to you can do in the summer - or on weekends

  • Internships are a great way to spend your summer as you get a comprehensive understanding of the profession you wish to pursue. Your colleagues will give you insight about your job which may help you decide whether this is the right profession. Many organizations, such as clinics and advertisement agencies in Dubai, accept interns.

  • Summer programs are intensive and shorter than internships. These programs take place in universities like Oxford for a couple of weeks where you can study subjects like Film or Mathematics. These programs are highly educational and interactive as you are being taught by highly qualified professors. Apart from this, you get to go on excursions and trips with people you make lifelong friendships with.

  • Volunteer work is much needed nowadays. You can tutor children at a special needs school or work at an animal shelter. There’s so much you can do to help the community and offer a hand. Also, it is better to stick to one service for a couple of months than to do many different types of work, because it’s better to see commitment to one cause.

  • Online courses can really boost your knowledge in certain subjects. Colleges appreciate it when students do more than they are required to, whether it is in terms of academics or extracurricular activities. Coursera is an online education company that offers courses, specialisations, and degrees from 150 of the world’s top universities and educational institutions, including Stanford and Yale. They have hundreds of courses ranging from Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies to Buddhism and Modern Psychology that you can benefit from.

  • You could also learn a new language, which would makes you an international student. If you know Spanish, for example, companies in South (and even North) America will consider your resume more strongly than someone who only knows English or only one language. Many institutes in the UAE, like Eton, offer many classes on languages like Spanish and Swedish.

– Sasha Kumar is an intern at Gulf News