The Uncertain Future of Summer Internships

Students discuss the cancellation of their internships and the challenges presented through remote work over the summer.

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is a highly sought after internship by NYU students. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the way students are looking for summer internships. (Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

In the midst of COVID-19 and the uncertainties it has thrust upon the world, one of the biggest questions for students are the fate of their summer internships.

Large media companies such as Buzzfeed, Sony and NPR, as well as local dentists’ offices, schools and law firms, have cancelled their summer internship programs.

Tandon sophomore Jenny Kam had her current job working for a neurologist and summer internship with a dentist on the Upper East Side completely cancelled in anticipation that the stay-at-home orders issued nationwide will extend into the summer months.

“Unfortunately, due to the fact a lot of pre-health internships are hand-on [sic] and more about research, for now, everything is cancelled,” she said to WSN in an email. “If the summer is still under strict stay-at-home restrictions, my plan is to just stay home and really focus on studying for my DAT exam I plan to take my junior spring semester.”

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Similarly, CAS sophomore Aimee Hou had a job in the city at the Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty law firm, but it’s also been temporarily cancelled due to the virus.

“I do research for the law firm,” she said. “This would be in-person work so I am not able to do any remote work. I was told we would go back to work once the pandemic is over or if things get better.”

Rather than cancelling their programs completely, some summer internships have announced that they will be continuing through a remote format.

“I’m interning as a summer teaching fellow at Uncommon Schools, a charter school system in Brooklyn,” CAS junior Caroline Stanley said.

The program went remote as of March 30, and Stanley expressed that it should be interesting, given the nature of the work.

“The first part of the program was going to be shadowing a teacher in their classroom, and the second part would be teaching our own classroom of summer school kids,” she said. “They haven’t really explained how things will change much at all and I’m pretty concerned about the fact that we will be missing out on so many aspects of teaching technique by being online.”

Steinhardt junior Dan Vostinar is also able to continue her work for Sony Music and Electric Lady Studios remotely, but hopes to return to working in-person soon, as the music industry thrives in a collaborative environment.

“Working remotely with the tools we have, like communicating over Zoom, is very effective and keeps our spirits up,” she said.

However, a majority of artists thrive mentally and financially on live performances, which have stopped for the time being, affecting labels and studios immensely.

“One of the most difficult things to grasp is that no one has any answers, so yes, thinking about the future is a little scary,” Vostinar said. “But I know that as soon as we can resume in person again and attend live shows, we’re going to come back even stronger and enjoy it the most!” 

For students looking to apply to medical school, stress is high because of the fact that graduate admissions often look for applicants with more work hours. 

“This situation definitely sucks and it does hold up a lot of students in the pre-health track when it comes to getting in shadowing hours, research hours and internship hours,” Kam said. “Although we don’t know how long this situation will last, I do have to get more internship opportunities as well as finding people to shadow since many dental schools require at least 100 hours.”

While most students are scrambling after their internship plans went awry, the most stressed students seem to be juniors entering their final year.

“I graduate in December, which is already a difficult time to get hired as a teacher, so the added burden of the terrible economy makes me concerned about job prospects,” said Stanley. 

Although this pause isn’t ideal, some students remain hopeful about the future. 

“I definitely do miss doing my job because I get to work with amazing people,” Hou said. “I am not too worried about it affecting my future but I do hope that I can go back to doing what I love soon enough!”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Apr. 27, 2020 print edition. Email Addison Aloian at [email protected]

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