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The effect of Expectations on an Internship: A Survey Based on Students’ Opinions and Performance

This article reviews the effect of students’ expectations on students’ behaviour and their ability to learn during an internship. This study is based on a survey conducted in China by Quilun Zhang (2013) at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management. Records were made of students’ expectations before an internship for an enterprise and these same factors were recorded again after the internship.

This study and its results were made by comparing the gap between expectations and perceptions in tens of factors, including: expectations and perceptions of a good work environment, improving one’s CV, possibilities to progress to a higher position or getting more responsibility, improving communication skills, high team spirit and sufficient training during placement (Quilun 2013). In my article, I will especially focus on how expectations and particularly modifying them might help students to gain more from the internship and if modifying expectations could help these students to learn more effectively. In addition I will analyse the main differences between expectations (E) and perceptions (P) and what this tells us in practice.

This case study revealed that expectations play a key role in students’ performance and their learning experience when entering a new enterprise and work environment. The students had quite high expectations in general, and these expectations were not met by their placements in the company (Quilun 2013). Furthermore, these expectations were not met because they did not correspond to the tasks that were given to these interns. The students were not given enough information or the right kind of knowledge about their placements and this disappointment in their internships had a negative effect on their attitudes and abilities to learn.

Several things were determined when investigating the gap between E and P (Quilun 2013). Firstly, P turned out to be lower than E in most of the variables measured in this study (Quilun 2013). This indicates that expectations were not met. For example by improving communication between universities and the host companies, the students’ may have had a better and more useful learning experience and could, through this, generate value to the company if hired again in the future. Miscommunication between universities and companies causes unnecessary stress to the students and will effect their productivity at work as well.

The students also found it difficult to put the theory that they learned in university into practice at work and felt that there was not enough guidance to support them when having these problems (Quilun 2013). These problems were usually caused by a disfunctional management level structure or just incompetent supervision during the internship (Quilun 2013). The students were not treated equally or fairly and they did not get the guidance they needed.

An internship in a company allows students to progress from theory to practice, but the key element in this development is the mental aspect. This means that the students will grow as individuals and learn how to function in a professional environment independently. Expectations could help this mental development: when students obtain the right kind of attitude before the internship starts they will absorb new information and adapt to a new work environment much better. Students’ attitudes are fairly easy to modify. The effort that is necessary to make sure that the students are ready for their placements lies in the communication between the university and the enterprise. Especially when we know that this will effect the students’ performance, productivity and perceived job experience.

This survey also proved that several crucial benefits may be obtained by doing an internship. Personal interviews revealed that the students had learned problem solving, communication and team work during these placements and that positive attitudes toward the internship may boost these results to a new level.

Zhang, Qilun (2013): “Students’ Expectations and Perceptions of Internship Programs: The Example of China-Beijing BIEM Students in Continental-Grand Hotel for Internship”. Advances in Management and Applied Economics: 3:6 p. 217-222. China (Journal article, online) Available on World Wide Web: URL: [file:///home/studios92/Desktop/The%20effect%20of%20expectations%20on%20an%20internhip:%20an%20empirical%20study%20JuliaR.odt].

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