Internships can indeed count as valuable work experience when applying to universities.  Admissions committees often view internships favorably, especially if they are relevant to your intended field of study or demonstrate transferable skills. Relevant internships showcase student's commitment and interest in a particular subject, underscoring your readiness for academic coursework, and imbibes skills in research, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which can bolster your application. 

Internships are also a good way to build a network of professional contacts who may provide strong letters of recommendation.