Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many internships across the nation have been postponed or canceled for applicants looking for job experience. With a year of social distancing and virtual operations now having gone by, internship opportunities have once again begun to reopen and NC State students have started to apply.
Rachel Nichols, a second-year studying biological sciences, said obtaining an internship doing undergraduate research on campus has been harder to land because of the pandemic.
“Since I want to ideally work in a lab, there haven’t been many available positions because a lot of labs have been shut down because of COVID-19,” Nichols said. “They’re starting to open up now but the availability of positions has been a lot less.”
According to Nichols, many STEM majors at NC State have a requirement to participate in undergraduate research before graduation. Nichols said many students also find undergraduate research internships useful to obtain experience working with lab equipment and professors. According to Nichols, another challenge she faced this year was reaching out to professors open to undergraduate research internships.
“I think one of my biggest hurdles for me with contacting professors was like getting over any social anxiety,” Nichols said. “But the worst that can happen is they say no and realizing that kinda pushed me to do it even more, and I think it’s important to take opportunities like that.”
Caroline Laughlin, a second-year studying horticultural sciences and sustainable materials and technologies, said she received help from her adviser in applying for a summer internship after many of the application deadlines had closed.
“I asked her back in March if there were any internships available I could apply to because I was kind of late since February is the hotspot time to apply,” Laughlin said. “She was like ‘Hey, there’s this new PhD student who came in and he’s looking for people to assist him with that,’ so I applied and luckily I got it.”
While many students found their internships canceled last year due to COVID-19 lockdowns and limitations, Laughlin said this year a lot more opportunities have been made available to students. According to Laughlin, the department of horticulture also has an internship listing database for students to find open job opportunities in North Carolina, which helped her obtain her summer internship this year. Laughlin said this is her first internship after various internships canceled on her last year because of the pandemic.
“I think it definitely also inhibits depending on what you’re doing,” Laughlin said. “Luckily I’m just working with plants in a lab and not in a field with a lot of people, so I wouldn’t be able to do any sustainable materials internships because they have to work with a lot of people in close proximity most of the time.”
Coleman Simpson, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and agricultural and extension education, said many internships last year were canceled due to employers’ inexperience with online and remote work.
“It wasn’t clear as people were trying to figure that out last summer,” Simpson said. “I ended up applying for two congressional ones and they didn’t really go anywhere so I just kinda settled on not pursuing anything and just worked full-time last summer.”
Simpson said this year he applied for a leadership development internship in Student Leadership and Engagement. According to Simpson, the application process was “very communicative and really engaging,” something he said was part of internship applications this year being more accustomed to virtual operations. Simpson said internships still face various accessibility challenges that make them imperfect for students.
“I think they’re important for getting experience and getting help but I think there’s a lot of barriers to them,” Simpson said. “I don’t personally see them as the personal be-all of someone’s credibility and expertise, but I think they’re helpful.”
Emma Thorssell, a second-year studying electrical engineering, said internships this year were a lot more open to alternative forms of work than during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of the internships I applied to sent me emails saying that their internship programs were no longer happening,” Thorssell said. “I think that a lot more places are trying harder to make it happen this year, including remote internships or having more flexible work schedules so that people can come in when they can and also stay home.”
According to Thorssell, electrical engineering majors find internships crucial for career development, as it gives students insight into the variety of jobs available for them. This year, Thorssell said she applied for approximately 20 internships in the Raleigh area around campus, having recently been interviewed a few times while she awaits results from internship employers.
“A lot of employers look for work experience when they’re interviewing you for full-time jobs after graduation,” Thorssell said. “Especially with a major that’s really broad like electrical engineering, you want to figure out what you want to do before graduation and internships also help you do that.”