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Students find silver linings in remote on-campus internships

The College of Arts and Sciences On-Campus Internship Program, which allowed students to work remotely or in a hybrid format over the Fall, will continue through the Spring. EMILY CANDAL/ DFP FILE

Students partaking in Boston University’s on-campus internship programs this semester had the choice to work remotely or in a hybrid format. The switch, students said, came with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, mostly stemming from the lack of in-person interaction.

Fifteen students are getting professional experience through internships under one of 11 offices across campus through the College of Arts and Sciences On-Campus Internship Program.

Emily Lombardo, assistant director of CAS Student Programs and Leadership, said the majority of internships take place remotely this semester, with one or two running in a hybrid format. The corresponding one-credit course required for all interns is also remote.

The switch to remote internships began last spring, which Lombardo said helped make this semester’s transition smoother. She said the change was “simple” and involves more use of digital platforms such as Google Docs and Slack.

“Most people have been able to pivot really well,” Lombardo said, “and have meaningful experiences even though it is remote.”

Since its inception around six years ago, Lombardo said the program averages 15 to 20 interns each semester.

Lombardo said remote programming seems to have “worked out really well” thus far, although she can see the downsides.

“There’s a little bit of opportunity lost when you’re not in person,” Lombardo said, “as far as just being able to be in the office environment and learn about that experience of an internship.”

Lombardo teaches Internships for Liberal Arts: Work and Identity — Theory and Practice, the required course students in the program take alongside their internships, which she said aims to help students to reflect on the internship experience.

The course meets primarily over Blackboard, and includes a few workshops on subjects like professional networking, which were conducted virtually this semester.

The course requires interns to complete an “internship action plan” at the start of the semester to identify their goals and think about how to fulfill them. Assignments also include an informational interview with someone in their desired career field, among others.

“The goal is so students can speak to this internship,” Lombardo said, “and really use it as a way to leverage the experience in future internships and jobs that they apply to.”

Spring semester applications will open mid-November. Lombard said students can apply for positions within the University Service Center, the Biology Department, and the CAS Development and Alumni Relations, among others.

However, Lombardo said the Spring application will look different than in years prior, in that students will be given the option to select the modality — in-person, hybrid or remote — of their internship. 

This option will accommodate students who might not be on campus or who live in different time zones, as well as allow internship supervisors to determine how department needs will be met.

Lombardo said the program can be “a little bit more proactive” in preparing for the Spring semester because BU will maintain LfA, meaning major changes are less likely to occur.

The program will “hopefully” offer 15 internship options again next semester, Lombardo said. 

Lauren Hagy, a junior in CAS, is interning for Bob Sherburne, assistant dean of development and alumni relations with the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, after he lost his assistant to budget cuts.

For her internship, Hagy mainly helps Sherburne with administrative tasks, research and tracking attendance in Microsoft Excel for Pardee.

Though she is missing out on the experience of working in an office, Hagy said, the switch to an online internship has allowed her to make connections with alumni that she would not have otherwise. She said the pandemic requires more virtual meetings, so she is able to attend these and meet people from around the world.

“I got to meet a recent graduate who’s working in D.C., and that was just a really great connection,” Hagy said. “And I got to see how strong the Pardee alumni network really is.”

Hagy said she has had a “very positive, good experience” this semester, and the program has helped her start working toward future career options.

“My boss in particular, he’s been really flexible. He’s been really understanding,” Hagy said. “He’s definitely there to help me advance my career.” 

Samara Parada, a sophomore in CAS who is interning for the Office of Student Programs and Leadership, said she decided to stay home after accepting the internship in May. She said she was concerned this decision would cause her to lose the opportunity.

“They were totally understanding,” Parada said, “and they said it was completely fine.”

Though doing the internship remotely has made communication more difficult because her schedule might not always align with her supervisor’s, Parada said she is satisfied with her experience.

“Whether it’s in person or remote, I think it’s a good experience,” Parada said. “We learn a lot of things, and you gain skills that you can apply toward your major.”

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