Students face unexpected changes in summer employment, internships due to COVID-19

While some students take the summer to enter the workforce and find internships, this year their plans changed unexpectedly as a result of COVID-19. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Summers are supposed to be filled with ample opportunities for college students — employment, research, internships and more that can be key to their future — but with shutdowns and restrictions caused by COVID-19, most of those opportunities have been rescinded or postponed.

Recent graduates are facing hardships on a greater scale because they aren’t returning to business as usual. Employment normally is the expected next step for graduates, but much of that has been uprooted as a result of COVID-19 precautions.

“I was in the process of being hired for a full-time position which is now on hold indefinitely due to the economy, as it is a state agency,” said graduate Cassidy Hinson. 

Hinson is among many students facing workforce complications due to COVID-19.

“I’m limited in my job search and had to settle for a job that’s unrelated to my degree because all the facilities I’d be qualified to work with are currently closed to the public,” said graduate William Valdes.

Valdes graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, which would give him opportunities to work in various kinds of “creative spaces” like museums and art galleries.

“Everything is pretty much shut down when it comes to the arts at the moment so there aren’t any opportunities for me to apply anywhere,” said Valdes. “Even all of the gallery intern positions I was looking at all got canceled.”

Even those who had already been hired for jobs and were supposed to begin working after graduation have seen interruptions to their plans.

Jenn Cook, a recent graduate from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, said she was hired to start working May 10 as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Her employment was also going to include housing in the park’s surrounding areas, but COVID-19 put that on pause until further notice.

“In mid-April I got the call that it was delayed indefinitely — I could be called out to go in July or August, dependent both on if I was needed and if health guidelines would allow them to house me, or I could end up not going at all,” said Cook.

“The future is bleak.”

Students who are a year from graduation face a similar predicament.

For some, their plans over summer would have been important milestones for their careers after graduating, whether to gain experience in a certain field, learn from professionals or solidify what they want to do in the future. 

Third-year criminology student Gaby Molina intends to go to graduate school after she earns her undergraduate degree. She said her summer internship with USF Emergency Management was going to help clearly define her path after graduation. 

“I was hoping to do a [USF Emergency Management] internship in order to solidify what I would have liked to study for my master’s and ultimately do for my career, but all internships were canceled and I have no idea if they will allow it in fall,” said Molina. 

There are also internships specific to a student’s year and status. This is important for third-year students like political science major Rayna Rogers.

“I was supposed to have an internship with Publix corporate which I was hoping would lead to a full-time position after graduation, but that was canceled due to COVID-19,” said Rogers. “I was told I could reapply next year, but that would require me pushing back my graduation date a semester.”

In order to reapply next year, Rogers must be a full-time undergraduate student. Since she is expected to graduate before she can reapply, she is planning on graduating later to maintain her status as a student.

“The internship is only available to full-time college students, so instead of graduating in spring 2021, I would have to graduate in the summer,” said Rogers. 

For others, their internships are still set to continue — but with a few alterations. 

“I’m really grateful [Citibank] is still continuing with their internship program and paying as if it weren’t condensed, but it is condensed from 10 to six weeks and is online so it won’t be as hands-on as it usually is,” said third-year student Destiny Lee.

There are other students who do not share the same sentiments as Lee and are disappointed about the changes to their internship programs. One student, who chose to remain anonymous, said their program was moved online and changed to a “virtual upskilling” instead of an internship. 

The internship was also shortened from 10 weeks to two weeks. 

“Instead of doing client work like I planned and learning what it would be like to actually work for the company, I’ll be doing a project with other students who were also supposed to be interns,” the student said. “I’ll also only be paid one-fourth of the money I was going to be paid for the full internship, which I am grateful for but it is still unfortunate because I needed to save as much as I could for graduate school.

“Now I may need to take out more loans to get through.”

The need for career-advancing opportunities trickles down to sophomores and freshmen as well. 

“[I] had a chance at a really important internship for my career, that I’m still waiting to hear from, but assume has been canceled,” said second-year student Emma Sills.

Sills is pursuing a degree in interpreter training, more commonly known as sign-language interpreting.

“Hands-on experience is critical for the field and it can be challenging for a lot of new grads to find work without a certification,” said Sills. “[The internship] would have afforded me a lot of hands-on experience with deaf clients that would make a big difference in my postgraduate transition.”

Many of the opportunities that students were supposed to have are linked to traveling, whether it be to other places in the U.S. or abroad. 

“I was supposed to be in Germany right now doing my honors engineering capstone,” said second-year student Ellen Frahm. “After that, I would’ve been working as a teaching assistant for a summer pre-college program organized by Duke University. That was all canceled.”

Chemistry student Tina So also had trips abroad planned that were canceled that left her disappointed, especially after spending time to obtain the funding for her trip.

“I had worked hard to apply and coordinate for [my] activities and acquire scholarships for my study abroad trip,” said So.

Another second-year student, Amber Paulino, also had multiple trips linked to employment and education canceled.

“I had plans to spend about a month in D.C. with [George Washington] University then have a legal fellowship in Rome, Italy, for a month and they were both canceled because of coronavirus,” said Paulino. 

So said she is continuing to persevere despite the problems she and other students are facing until the world returns to normal.

“Do I wish I could have done all the things I had planned to do? Yes,” said So. “But I know that I can proactively find other activities to do to keep myself busy and still have a great summer, even if it’s not the one I planned to have.”