Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Teen struggles to find work experience that mirrors career aspirations

Adrian Mendonsa chose to work for his father's company rather than skip work experience altogether.

DUBAI // Adrian Mendonsa is itching to find work experience related to his career aspirations. He wants to study chemical engineering, but finding an internship in the nuclear energy sector has not been easy.

“I tried, but the only thing that was coming up was working for Dubai Sports World and InSport,” said Adrian, a 17-year-old at St Mary’s High School.

“To be honest, that wouldn’t really help me with my career choice. Sure, it would give me work experience and interaction with people, but then if I’m applying to university with that, it doesn’t really link up. I’d like to have the chance to work in the same industry that I want to study in.”

Desperate for some exposure somewhat close to his field of future study, Adrian turned to his father, who owns Elster Packaging Industries. He shadowed the production line manager there, who guided him through the various jobs at the plant. Still, he is concerned his experience will not count as much as someone who found work independently.

“I feel like they have a slight advantage considering that I didn’t earn it because it’s my Dad’s company. Although I did work seriously, it may not look too seriously to other countries,” said Adrian, who is in the process of applying to American universities.

“The joy of earning something by yourself is much, much different. It looks more impressive when the universities take a look at it because considering that you got a job by your own influence portrays a sense of your own responsibility.”

Since he was a boy, Adrian has dreamed of attending university in the United States. He’s hoping the experience he has accumulated through volunteer work at his school and church combined with his grades will make up for his shortfall when it comes to work experience.

Rema Menon, also a long-time school counsellor helps students like Adrian with their college applications. She sometimes advises them to simply speak up about the situation in the UAE, where it is very challenging to find decent internships or part-time jobs.

“There is a part in the application where you can say if there is anything you would like to tell the admissions committee and there are times when I have said there ... are legal limitations for a student to undertake work. When you put that in, then they are able to understand from that perspective,” Mrs Menon said.