What have I learned from work experience students? Much more than they learned from me | Zoe Williams

They got as much Diet Coke as they could drink and sometimes an ‘additional reporting’ credit. I gained an insight into a world of new perspectives

A teenager of my acquaintance is currently on work experience and obviously, as a parent, anyone’s critical concern is whether or not the teenager in question is annoying someone. But having been at the other end of this telescope, I can say that these young people are a lot more useful than they look.

Ten years ago, I gave a talk for the feminist group at a local secondary school, and I managed to offend a 17-year-old. Her complaint was so incredibly niche – I’d unfairly maligned the Socialist Workers party – that when she followed it up with a request for work experience, I was too awed to say “no”.

Never, until I was with a young black guy, have I been asked for ID, or sworn at, or had someone visibly cross the road to get away

Related: How to find valuable work experience while you study

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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