Students in the UK seeking a unique political experience in the US were left feeling “taken advantage of” after a travel company, Volunteer USA Ltd, known for organizing volunteer placements on election campaigns, declared bankruptcy. This left nearly 90 customers who had booked trips with the company owed thousands of pounds with no prospect of recovery. The company, advised by Northern Ireland Assembly member Patrick Brown, was also said to have offered some students an “internship” with the Alliance Party as an alternative to a refund.
One student, Nellie Gawne, explained the financial hardship she faced after her planned trip to Washington DC was canceled at short notice. Another student, Ross Wilson, said he felt pressured to accept an “internship” with the Alliance Party after Politrip twice canceled his US trip due to the pandemic. Primrose Sparkes, a student from Oxford, said her £600 placement in New Jersey was canceled just a week before it was due to start, leaving her feeling as though she had wasted her entire summer with no work experience. This case raised concerns about the welfare of students who might have felt compelled to participate in political internships, given their tight financial constraints as students.
Student Primrose Sparkes felt she was “taken advantage of” when her political internship in the US got canceled by Volunteer USA Ltd, the travel business, leaving students like her out of pocket with no way to recover their money. One student was even offered an internship with the Alliance Party in place of a refund, adding to the consequences of the company’s sudden liquidation. This situation has raised questions about whether students were pressured into political internships due to financial constraints, rather than simply being reimbursed for their lost investments.