True Singapore Intern Stories: Horror Stories from Interns Past and Present
Image: Tey Liang Jin / RICE File Photo

Internships have gone from a ‘good-to-have’ leg up on your CV to a compulsory graduation requirement in almost every higher education institution. Working experience is now a prerequisite to enter the workforce, fuelling the summer internship craze among students. 

Companies now have an infinite supply of optimistic undergraduates and polytechnic students who need to work to graduate, which is great for employers. For interns? Not so much. Especially without proper guidelines safeguarding an intern’s interest, working conditions can become worthy of a horror story.

Internships are often seen as a necessary evil, but just how bad can they be? Local student interns reveal the worst workplace experiences they’ve endured even before landing their first job.

“When I was a marketing intern at a production company, we went overseas for a shoot. During dinner, the video host suddenly asked me about my dating life. The other host asked me if I had ‘tried other races’. This ultimately led to my boss calling me racist. He started insulting me publicly and told everyone never to hire me because I was useless. That’s just one story.

He liked to call me stupid and slow, even though I was doing way more than my job scope. I was doing marketing, video editing, filming, partially even producing, talent management, etc. He expected me to keep the office tidy, so as I was doing everything, I was also cleaning the office. He threatened to fire me for being two minutes late. I was in the office until 2 AM that morning.

And now he regrets it. He tells everyone else that I was a super good intern, but I never saw that appreciation.”

— Bella, 24

Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE file photo

“I was working [as a Community Engagement Intern] for a government agency. I had to write the procurement SOPs for my whole department. What does that have to do with Community Engagement?”

— Jade, 25

“I was hired as a Summer Analyst [intern] at a venture capital firm, but my boss randomly assigned me to market three different additional events out of my job scope. He even passively aggressively asked me why I was not doing my main job.

My supervisor asked me why my tone was so harsh instead of giving me a straight response to my questions. Then another man joined the conversation and said, ‘This is why Helen isn’t in a relationship.’

One of my colleagues would also go out of his way to humblebrag about how much work he’s doing as if that’s a flex. I’m getting paid the same, and I’m able to finish all my work without an ounce of OT. We are NOT the same.”

— Helen, 22

“As a marketing intern at a property company, the supervisor asked me to improve everyone’s LinkedIn profile to ‘market’ everyone in the office. They couldn’t do it themselves because they’re such dinosaurs. 

He’d also have the interns prepare all his presentation slides. He would then go into the slides, remove the interns’ names, and present our work as his work in front of upper management. 

I ended up confronting him with evidence. He yelled at me in the open office, saying that I had better show my elders some respect or I’d never make it. I make more than him now.”

— Rebecca, 28

intern singapore cbd stressed
Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

“I’m currently a content creation intern at a music label. Whenever the full-timers go on leave, they hand over the work without fully communicating what needs to be done. And it seems like they’re always on holiday. Y’all don’t need to work, ah?

They don’t take into consideration that you’re juggling school and work. I had exams the same week they were all out of office. I had a mental breakdown at my desk, then did their work for them.”

— Jess, 25 

“I’ve only just been hired as a software engineer intern, but the [startup] is already dying. Many full-timers are leaving because they absolutely hate the product manager. They think he has no skill, so everyone is leaving without replacement. Honestly, [the company] is just gonna keep shrinking till I die.

There’s constant tension in the office. Although they’re being professional, you can tell they don’t like each other and want to leave ASAP. It makes me scared.

I actually declined another offer that was double my current intern salary because I really believed in this startup. TBH, that’s the real horror story.”

— Leon, 26

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