In my country there are professional courses which give a qualification level of 4 and last for 3 years. It's part of the course to do an internship in the second and third year in which you can choose where to go or let the school choose for you.

In my case I took a programming course and as for the internship I let the school choose because I didn't know where to go. I ended up in the company with more ties with my school because I was the best at programming in my class as well as on school itself in both years.

In the first year of internship there were 10 more interns. In the middle of it they gave me and two of the other interns a task to develop a WebApp for them and so we started. The thing is one of them only knew basic Java while the other knew nothing at all, so I ended up doing it alone while the one that knew Java was trying to make an Android version. We never finished the project till the end of the first internship which was 2 months.

At the end of the first internship the boss called me to talk. The conversation went like: "You make projects for us while you are in school, we pay you for that". I gladly accepted cause it looked like a good opportunity.

Now almost at the end of the summer break we spoke again and they wanted me to do the Web App for free as it was an internship project so I thought that I'd only going to work in that when I'm there in the internship.

Fast forward to today, where I'm in the internship again, this time alone, and I'm rebuilding this big Web Application from scratch (because there was a lot of unnecessary stuff in the old one and I wanted to rebuilt it properly). All of this is being done for free and this application might give them some good money, so I can't stop feeling like I'm being used and that they might take this project for free and don't give me any more projects at all afterwards.

This begs my question: is this something usual where they're using the Web Applications as a test to see if I'm any valuable? How should I proceed? I thought that maybe as a safeguard if they do screw me over I take the project down and re-sell it, if so should I do it?

Sorry if the english is bad and if it's way to confusing to read, or if I made this question in the wrong place, please do tell me if I did.

  • 3
    Are you getting any kind of course credit from your school for this internship?
    – alroc
    Jan 25, 2018 at 16:30
  • If you are really getting nothing in return, then perhaps. Aren't you getting experience which is of value?
    – Neo
    Jan 25, 2018 at 16:37
  • 3
    At a minimum you're getting real world experience, a great reference, and something to put on your resume that will make you stand out from all your fellow job seekers. Do this well and you may get a job after you graduate as well. Jan 25, 2018 at 16:44
  • @alroc I don't think so, it just gives me a grade like an extra "class" in total.
    – Ivo Silva
    Jan 25, 2018 at 16:47
  • 4
    @Tosindo If you're getting a grade, are you sure you aren't getting credits toward graduation? Jan 25, 2018 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


First of all you should clarify whether you're under any contract with the company because it may impact a lot. Regardless, I'll try and answer most of your points assuming you don't have any.

is this something usual where they're using the Web Applications as a test to see if I'm any valuable?

I'm also portuguese and unfortunately this is very common, not to see if you're valuable or not, but because students are seen as disposable.

Granted, this doesn't mean you have to put up with it, and you shouldn't. At all. Talk to whoever is in charge of your internship in your school and tell them about your situation, stating that you'd like to change to a new "client" (this is the first point where knowing if you have a signed contract with them can change things up).

I thought that maybe as a safeguard if they do screw me over I take the project down and re-sell it, if so should I do it?

Don't. I understand you may be angry at them for using you, but don't start a war you're bound to lose. I'm not sure if they can sue you (again, a contract matters a lot here) but I know that they can give you a piss poor evaluation, not handing a recommendation letter, etc. In sum, making so your experience there counts zero towards your curriculum.

Unlike other answers you may have, I am of the strong opinion that if you bring value to a company, it doesn't matter if you're a student or an industry veteran, they should pay you. Imagine going to a store and saying "I won't pay for your shirt because since I will be wearing it so much other people will see it and come racing to buy it".

It's ludicrous, and accepting it only perpetuates the problem.

edit: a couple of extra thoughts. The "students are disposable" mentality is so ingrained that even your teacher might tell you that "that's how it is, sorry". If that's the case, look it up yourself. I can tell you from experience that there are a lot of companies willing to provide paid internships. They won't pay much, but it is something.

Regarding stealing the company product, I may have come out wrong when I told you not to do it because of the consequences. You should never do something like that even if you think you can get away with it. It isn't ethical in the slightest.

  • I don't think there is a contract but I will talk to my teacher at school, thanks a lot
    – Ivo Silva
    Jan 25, 2018 at 17:11
  • 1
    Great answer! But @Tosindo, even if you lose, and don't get paid, cheer up! You have great experience, and should have no trouble finding a real job when you are out of school. I'm not familiar with Portugal, but I know that knowledgeable developers tend to be in demand.
    – employee-X
    Jan 25, 2018 at 18:17
  • Alternatively, you might be able to get part-time work now. (That is, not an intership.)
    – employee-X
    Jan 25, 2018 at 18:18
  • @employee-X if I'm not mistaken those courses require an internship because the program is made with said internship in mind Jan 25, 2018 at 18:20
  • 1
    @employee-X That depends a lot, some enterprise will not sign a contract with you if you don't have a course, paper, certificate; knowledge alone is not always a good idea Jan 25, 2018 at 19:19

At this point, being student and doing internships, the value that is returned to you from internships is:

  • The Experience
  • The Reference on your resum
  • The Grade/Credit

In your case, you are building "large projects from scratch" and is "part of the course". And I think this is of a great value. In other internships, I hear them struggling/bored of doing print jobs and data entry tasks only.

For now, build a good resume and the solid experience, and that will get you money, plenty.


If they can make money off of this app, which is a long-shot, then you are extremely valuable to this company and my guess is they'll want to keep you. Good developers are hard to find. At this point, you would be in an advantageous situation to be compensated better than most recent graduates.

My guess is, this app will make nothing and you better hope you get a strong recommendation for your experience. If your boss gave you money and asked you to go buy a lottery ticket for him, how much of the winnings would you expect to get if any?

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