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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Opinion: Remote internships are not preparing students for the real world

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Kaylin Atkinson/THE REVIEW
Since the beginning of the pandemic, most internships have been remote

BY
Columnist

Getting your first internship is possibly one of the most pivotal moments in your college career. It’s a moment when you start doing truly “adult” things in the real world. In addition to it being a  great accomplishment, it’s also an exciting experience that introduces you to the reality of your possible career.

Unfortunately, in-person internships are another thing the pandemic has taken from college students. Since the beginning of the pandemic, most internships have been remote. While the consideration of health is necessary, it’s interesting to think about how this lack of hands-on experience will affect the next generation of college graduates entering the workforce.

Since the pandemic has started, I was fortunate enough to complete one journalism internship and am currently working another. While these experiences have been helpful and eye-opening, I can’t help but wonder if I have missed out on something by not having the hands-on experience that most students have had in the past.

In a field like journalism, hands-on experience is one of the most exciting parts. It’s difficult to replicate the feeling of being in a newsroom from behind a computer screen. The same can be said for other fields where many students are left with lingering questions even after completing the internship. 

In some ways, working online is not as demanding as working in-person. From my experience, working online allowed me to do projects more independently. There is less collaboration and communication than there is in-person. Oftentimes, when I had so much freedom from the comfort of my own home, I could get easily distracted. I became very comfortable in my own space and routine that I left the internship unsure of how I would act in a real work environment.

While this does make the nature of the work more “do it yourself,” it can also present challenges. Entering a new field in an internship setting is scary. It’s new and challenging, which made me search for validation from my supervisors that I was doing everything correctly. But with the lack of in-person supervision, that communication is not constantly available. I had to find my own ways to do many things, leaving me questioning if I was doing everything by the book.  

It’s scary enough as a student to think of life post-graduation. With the added weight of roughly a year-and-a-half of online classes and limited experience, students are now left with the daunting question of where to go from here?

The feeling of not knowing what to do after graduating college haunts many students. But something no one could prepare them for is the lack of preparedness remote internships have brought. It’s difficult to imagine someone being thrust into a career when the only experience they’ve had has been through a screen.

We can mentally tell ourselves that an actual workplace is different from what we have done remotely, but how can we be expected to acclimate to a new environment when we haven’t experienced the differences between working remotely versus in-person?

Despite the challenges that remote internships have brought and will bring to future graduates, there are certain benefits. Something that has benefited me throughout my experience is that there is a wider variety of options to choose from. Since most opportunities are online, the range of locations you can work for isn’t as limited as they are with an in-person internship. There are opportunities to work for a company that is located anywhere. For one of my current internships, I work closely with people from Ukraine which isn’t something I would have the opportunity to do if it was in-person.

While I would love the opportunity to complete internships in-person, it’s important to acknowledge the bright side of the situation — something we have all had to do throughout the pandemic. 

Striving for the “glass half full” perspective has been something that we have been trained to do for the last year-and-a-half. But as the world slowly begins to return to normalcy, the reality of certain aspects of life is setting in. One of these being that college students are not as prepared as previous graduates. Whether it’s the overall lack of the college experience or having to do remote internships, college students have missed out on vital moments. 

Lily Williams is a columnist for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at lillianw@udel.edu.

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