‘Did he get enough of paying you already?’ she struck me cynically, as she always did.
Like the time when I received a Christmas present from the office where I spent my summer internship. Contemplating it under the tree for a few days before Christmas’ Eve already filled me with satisfaction as a symbol of my undoubtedly fundamental contribution to the work of the office for that year. Unwrapping it, I had a rush of joy: it was a notebook by the well-known brand! My excitement quickly subsided when I noticed my mum was shaking her head in disapproval. Her words that time were less sarcastic and, maybe because of the festive atmosphere, acquired a morally solemn tone: ‘They should be ashamed.’
Later I did the maths and, as it turned out, my mother was right. Assuming that, because of my poor professional skills, I got paid just half the hourly wage of a newly graduate (those days they used to be paid), for my 225 hours of work I should have earned something around 1000 euro. I felt ashamed too but, back then, my favourite currency was ECTS. So was called the system of credits in use all over Europe to standardize the amount of time necessary to successfully complete any academic career. Courses, lectures, workshops, study trips and also internships were packaged in credits each worth 25 hours of study or work.
The 9 credits earned through my internship looked like a great reward at the end of the sacrificed summer, as they allowed me to leave for Erasmus with the near certainty of being able to get my bachelor degree by the end of the academic year. After just three months, I was holding in my hands a (probably recycled) present worth 1% of the value of the work I had done: it didn’t look so great anymore.
This is when I resolved to never work for free again, at least for money making businesses.