The status of summer internships may have changed, but other alternatives can be just as productive

The status of summer internships may have changed, but other alternatives can be just as productive

As employers debate whether they will continue offering summer internships during the pandemic, some students needed to change their original plans. Although these changes were not foreseen, the Center for Career Engagement & Opportunity (CEO) has  suggestions for how students can still find new opportunities for a productive summer. 

Among the students whose plans were disrupted, third-year Jenna Courtade applied for a paid internship to work in the Ringling Museum archives, however, a week after receiving acceptance she was informed that it would be cancelled.   

“At first I was kind of expecting it, but I was still very sad; I wanted to ignore it,” Courtade said. “I’m still sad about it, but I also recognize that there’s a lot of other things I need to focus on right now.”

Third-year Adam Johnson experienced a similar situation. Prior to the online transition, he was accepted into the Beatties Ford Road Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the program, Johnson would have received a stipend along with travel and housing coverage to “contribute to their research in the local community by establishing a neighborhood-level-assessment of the interactions between housing characteristics and the health and social status of communities in the region.” However, upon receiving news that it would be cancelled, Johnson was still proud to have been accepted.

“At least I can still put it on my resume! ‘The program was cancelled, but I swear I got accepted before that!’” Johnson said. “Additionally, now that I have slowly come to the realization of just how serious this pandemic is, I understand it’s the responsible thing to do and that sadly given the way this country is handling things we will not be able to safely go back to normal by this summer most likely.”

Although Johnson can no longer go through with his REU, he found a replacement opportunity: working with Professor of Sociology David Brain as a research assistant to help find articles, write up reviews for a database on public space and code other metadata. This opportunity will not pay as much, but still interests him. 

Another student, second-year Victoria Goldner, had planned to be involved in the PUSH/SUCCESS program, where she would work with Professor of Biology and Marine Science Sandra Gilchrist to teach scientific skills to middle and high school students from low and mid-income families in Sarasota. The goal of the program is to give these students a ‘push to success’ by helping them gain more experience to put towards college and job applications. Goldner had wanted to pursue this internship along with a trip to Honduras with Gilchrist, a DiveMaster internship and her job at the Pritzker Marine Biology Research.

“Since the pandemic, I’ve had to put my job on hold and both the internship programs along with the Honduras trip were cancelled. However, thankfully I was contacted by the Cross Collegiate Alliance (CCA) and asked to take an internship redoing southwest Florida’s 32-stop audio watershed tour with the Science and Environment Council (SEC),” Goldner said. “Most of it can be done remotely, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to come back to Sarasota before summer ends to pick back up my job, my DiveMaster internship and to finish the SEC internship.” 

According to Director of the CEO Dwayne Peterson, some of the findings the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) mentioned in a webinar he recently attended showed that most employers are choosing not to revoke offers, instead making changes such as cutting the length of internships and switching to remote work. Still, many internships have been cancelled, but Peterson encourages students to not let this diminish the productivity that can come from summer. 

“This is a good time to start a blog if you’re a writer, or work on that coding project if you’re a computer science student; if you’re in the arts, work on a piece you’ve been thinking about, maybe you really want to get into film and this is your chance to sit down and write that script,” Peterson said. “All of those things are still ‘experience’ even if someone is not paying you for them, and those are still things that you can talk about on a resume or in an interview.”

In Courtade’s case, summer may not be spent adding to her resume, but she plans to prepare required documents for graduate schools.

“I would also like to cross stitch and read a lot and maybe even find some way to make money from home,” Courtade said. “Who knows.” 

Currently, Handshake has added a new ‘remote’ feature, so if students are still looking for a summer internship, they will be able to find those that are continuing remotely.

“Inside of Handshake, if a student logs in through MyNCF, then click on jobs and just type the word remote and filter by internship, what you will see is that there are over a hundred remote virtual internships posted in Handshake right now: everything like communications, international relations, marketing, music, public relations, writing, film festival and political campaign is there,” Peterson said. 

Students who are looking for experiences to put on a resume but do not quite find things that stand out on Handshake are encouraged to look elsewhere. For instance, several organizations such as Multicultural Health Institute (MHI) and The Newtown Nation Inc. are working to bring aid for vulnerable populations in the community and are open to help of all kinds. Peterson believes that students can use opportunities in the community to find their right fit. 

“Your whole academic experience is about thinking outside the box, trying things out and taking risks, why should we approach our professional development any differently, let your curiosity guide you,” Peterson said. “Well there’s this thing going on, ask yourself ‘where can I fit in?’”

The CEO will be hosting a virtual career fair in June so keep an eye out for emails or contact Peterson directly. For those who have interest in helping MHI they can contact Dr. Lisa Merritt (mhigtkpr@gmail.com) or The Newtown Nation Inc. and reach Valerie Buchand (vbuchand@gmail.com) to learn how to help. 

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