Summer internships — often a fundamental part of the college experience — have taken on a new virtual face since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, changing the whole of the student internship experience.
The onset of COVID-19 and the dramatic transformations it brought moved many internship opportunities for students completely online. Despite the uncertainty, many students have embraced virtual internships.
John Collier, a junior and upcoming finance intern at Fannie Mae, said he had initially been disappointed when his program switched from a hybrid setting to online. However, he also noted that going virtual meant he got to save more of his take-home pay.
“Then I realized that [the internship] is in Washington, D.C., and I would’ve had to move to D.C., and it’s pretty expensive to live there,” Collier said.
Approximately 89% of the class of 2020 completed an internship before graduation, according to the University of Richmond Outcomes page.
“I think [going virtual] allows for work to go on as usual,” Becca Rubenstein, a senior who completed a fully remote internship last summer, said. “It’s better than nothing.”
Beth Chancy, an advisor at the Office of Alumni and Career Services, said online internships have resulted in more companies offering additional opportunities.
“It’s given students more opportunities because more companies are reaching out to more of a variety of schools because it’s not as expensive for them … they don’t have to travel to visit anymore,” Chancy said.
Although virtual internships have become much more mainstream since the start of the pandemic, Chancy said the pandemic had served as “more of an accelerator than a catalyst” and speculated that we were headed toward a more virtual climate anyway.
Rather than go fully remote, some companies opted to offer hybrid internships that were held partially in-person and partially online.
Some students, like Phil Sapienza, a junior studying business administration, took advantage of these hybrid options. Sapienza worked as a summer intern at Markel Corporation in western Henrico County.
“I got to meet both coworkers and fellow interns when I was in-person, whereas when I was working virtually, it felt lonely at times," Sapienza said. "I also feel like my productivity was much better in person, as it was very easy to slack off when I was just working from home."
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One of the main goals of participating in an internship is being introduced into the workforce and getting a taste of post-graduation life. Despite the adjustments brought by the virtual shift, Sapienza and others remained optimistic.
“I honestly do not think COVID-19 affects my uncertainty about post-graduate life, as I am pretty confident that the pandemic is almost behind us,” Sapienza said.
Though Sapienza and other students may believe that COVID-19 will pass by this summer, many companies are still considering remote and hybrid options for internships.
The world of internships may be changing, but intern positions are still available and accessible for students.
“Students who remain open to opportunities, they find opportunities,” Chancy said.
Contact contributor Hayley Simms firstname.lastname@example.org.
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