Oy. My internship is almost completely up in the air now. I went from beginning to warm up to the idea to being more sure than ever that I did not want to work there. Here’s what happened…
I was e-mailing a woman from the organization to arrange a phone conversation to discuss my internship role. She gave me the URL of their website so I could look over their current projects to be more familiar with their organization. I must have originally been given the wrong URL from CAPA because the woman I spoke to was from an entirely different organization: The Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
Essentially, this company lobbies UK and European governments on behalf of the alcohol industry. I was immediately uneasy about this – I would rather not work for an organization that aims to put the profits of alcohol corporations above the public interest. One of the major goals of this company is to relax governmental regulations and taxes on alcohol. For example, their most recent accomplishment was to change allergen labeling regulations in order to save wine producers money.
I’m sure this company isn’t all bad: they do seem do be socially responsible and they note an interest in promoting sustainability (though they have only noted an interest in this because of growing consumer demand). Still, I simply don’t feel right about working for a company that puts alcohol retailers and producers over consumers. To be clear, I don’t have any problem with alcohol or lobbying for that matter, but I would be much more inclined to support lobbying on behalf of the public interest instead.
Despite my new concerns, I still ended up speaking with the Executive Director of WSTA yesterday afternoon. He was quite friendly, asking about my family and my personal interests, and he was also very up front about the intentions of the company – he made sure that I did not have any moral opposition to alcohol use. He briefly outlined some projects I’d work on that involved marketing, which did seem quite interesting, but still didn’t make me any more in favor of working there. We basically left the conversation at that I’d begin working there in a few weeks. I wasn’t sure what to tell him, so I didn’t offer up any indication that I didn’t really want to work there.
After the phone call, and after I had thought a bit more about it, I e-mailed Reema at CAPA and explained to her that I wasn’t really comfortable working there and was hoping to explore other options. She replied this morning and said that she would pursue other opportunities for me. I feel a bit guilty and almost ungrateful about rejecting the placement that she had chosen for me and I am worried that I might be inconveniencing her, but the truth is I am essentially paying for her to work for me – I have paid upwards of $13,000 to participate in this program and I feel I should expect to be able to have the best experience possible.
For all I know, WSTA could be not nearly as bad as I’ve convinced myself, but there’s really no way to know until I start working there. Besides, I know there are plenty of other internship opportunities out there that I would be much more happy doing, so I would much rather explore those options rather than settle for a place that I’m not sure I’ll enjoy. Thankfully Reema is in the process of looking for a new placement, which I will hopefully enjoy more. I would ideally like to know before I leave this coming Tuesday, but I’m sure it will not be possible for her to find me a new internship before then. I hope I won’t have to wait too long after I arrive in London.