I have to complete an internship in order to get my Master’s in speech pathology. The department head approved the one I chose when I submitted it to him, but now that I have started the internship and have sent him a few reports, he doesn’t like it any more. He says he isn’t going to make me find a new one, since he approved it, but now he is trying to micromanage my internship and is inconveniencing my boss. What should I do?
--A Rock and a Hard Place
Dear A Rock and a Hard Place,
The short answer is to handle it carefully. Situations like this can be sticky to say the least, and fortunately or not, they are not unheard of in graduate school. The first thing to keep in mind is that all of this is temporary. If you think back on your graduate career, I would imagine that there were many stressful semesters that you were able to survive. The hard truth is that surviving graduate school can sometimes be more a test of your ability to navigate tough situations rather than academic achievement.
That being said, you do have a couple of options. First, you could say nothing, keep your head down, and do your best to just survive the internship. The draw back here is that this could make for a few difficult months.
Another option would be to talk to your boss. Chances are that the person supervising your internship is no stranger to dealing with academics and may have some suggestions to help navigating this sticky situation. Furthermore, your boss may also be willing to be a bit more flexible than your department is. Approach this option with caution. You will have to make a judgment call about whether or not you would feel safe having this conversation with your boss. If you believe for any reason that your boss might respond defensively, or if having this conversation would create more problems for you, I would caution against having such a conversation.
Alternatively, you may consider speaking with your department head. Again, consider the relationship you have with your department head before you approach him or her. You likely know based on prior experiences working with them if you think they would be helpful in this situation—follow your gut on this one.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to take care of yourself. These situations are never easy to navigate and can result in a lot of distress. You might also consider spending a little extra time (if there is such a thing in graduate school) doing some of the things you enjoy, reaching out to your friends and other supports, and talking with other students who have survived an internship site at your current placement.
--René Paulson, PhD