How to Spend Your Summer: Intern or Volunteer

Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing ways in which you can spend your summer. From growing professionally to relaxing and exploring, we’ve got your summer bucket list covered.

In today’s post, I will explore the benefits of volunteering and interning and talk a bit about what each type of position entails.

Taking on an internship or volunteer position is a great way to grow both professionally and personally. Not only will volunteering or interning help you build your network, but also build skills that you will likely be able to apply to your future career.


Many of you are likely familiar with what a volunteer position entails: giving your time to an organization, without monetary compensation, to benefit a cause you’re passionate about.

I have held several volunteer positions during my time in school.

One of the most notable positions I held was as a volunteer technician at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. While volunteering as a preparator and deflesher was fun and helped me build connections that I would otherwise not have made, positions like mine at the ROM can be incredibly time-consuming.

It’s important to consider how time-consuming a position may be before deciding to commit to it. Lab positions can be incredibly fruitful and fulfilling, but they do come at a cost.

Another position that I had accepted was at the Toronto Wildlife Centre as a nursery volunteer. I had gone through all of the training required; however, based on the location and the level of commitment this position would require, I quickly had to step down.

While I was passionate about the cause, the time commitment was more than I was able to manage. My brief time spent with the Wildlife Centre also showed me something else I had to consider when applying for these opportunities: how far was I willing to travel for a cause I cared about?

At the time, between my part-time job and my course load, travelling 45 minutes to a fairly remote location was not something that was viable long-term.

Regardless of the bumps in my volunteer journey, I still actively seek out causes that I care about. If you are looking to volunteer, you can reach out to an organization involved with a cause you are passionate about. Most will have volunteer opportunities available.

If you are looking for some inspiration, keep an eye on our blog! I will be highlighting some organizations that offer volunteer positions over the next few weeks.


Internships, on the other hand, can be confusing, partially because the regulations regarding internships vary depending on where you live.

For example, this page outlines the regulations that apply to Canadian internships, whereas this page outlines regulations as they apply to internships in the U.S. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and in some cases, can be applied towards school credit.

Internships are a great way to gain experience in a line of work that interests you and are meant to provide you with job experience more so than a volunteer position.

Some schools will offer internship opportunities for credit (often referred to as as a co-op). Doing a co-op is a great way to experience what it’s like to work in a particular field. Sometimes, but not always, internships used towards school credit are unpaid.

Some internships are paid. Such internships are usually contractual positions.

Entry into an internship is usually competitive, as internships are great things to have on your resume and offer you the ability to expand your network.

If you are looking to apply for an internship, you may find sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor useful.

In conclusion

I encourage you to spend the next couple of weeks looking for internship or volunteer opportunities. If you are confused about how to apply—fear not!

I will be explaining how to apply for these opportunities in an upcoming post.


VIDEO: Suggestions for students on having a productive summer

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