With the summer before her senior year looming, Gabrielle Reynolds knew that to boost her post-graduation employment chances an internship was a must. After several e-mails and a long phone interview, the journalism student found herself in the ultimate summer internship position - the newest employee of a well-known international public relations firm in Manhattan. "I was looking forward to getting some great in-the-field experience, rather than just menial work, like photocopying," she said. Reynolds, like many undergraduates, recognized a growing trend - a summer internship in the professional world as a necessary piece of students' education. "We have seen companies that did not in the past have internship programs begin to create them," said Amanda Williams, internship coordinator at University Career Services. "Students have more opportunities for internships than they have in the past." Jay Eubank, who coordinates internships for journalism students, said that these days students will find getting a post-college job almost impossible without relevant professional experience. "That's the stark reality of it," he said. "The first thing about internships is that it's an investment in what your career is going to be." But as Reynolds found out, not every internship experience turns out to be completely positive. "My work hours were technically 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.," said Reynolds, who at one point worked a 17-hour shift. "But we were expected to be there by 8 a.m., and I never once got out of the office before six." "Everyone in the office has a Blackberry, and the bosses send e-mails at three and four in the morning, expecting you to have completed the assignments by the time they arrive at the office," she said. Like many students who spend their summers at internships, she worked for free. Interns said they take unpaid positions because they feel the jobs will benefit them when they graduate. But often an unpaid internship is not an option for undergraduates who rely on a job to pay the bills. "Most of the interns who worked with me lived outside the city," Reynolds said. "The cost of living, especially in a city like New York, so greatly outweighs the compensation." She said that in Manhattan, finding a small studio for less than $1,000 a month is rare. For Wes Jones, a senior economics major who worked on the trading floor for an international bank in New York City, intern abuse - long hours, errands and low compensation - was just something he expected. "I got coffee a lot, set up Excel spreadsheets for the traders, did a lot of shadowing and searched CNN a lot," he said. "They yelled at me constantly. I came in late one day, and they made me stand on a desk and read all the closing numbers and then sing the Carolina fight song with 400 traders watching me." However difficult his workdays were, Jones, like Reynolds, said he believes his internship was a worthwhile experience. Eubank said that interns often realize they have to do grunt work to get into their chosen field. "And even if you're doing a lot of that grunt work, you can still make really good connections," he said. Teresa Doring, director of human resources at NBC-17, said the station hires interns each semester and has offered entry-level jobs to former interns more than once. Reynolds said that despite the 4 a.m. requests, she thinks she'd be at a disadvantage if she hadn't worked at the public relations firm. "At one point one of my bosses stood up and said he'd hire all of us on the spot," she said. "As much as you're everyone's mule, pulling all the weight, it opens doors because we all left with recommendations. . If you've really impressed someone in your internship, that can make or break your career." Contact the Features Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.