Temple students navigate second year of summer internship uncertainty

As students look for summer internships, some work details remain unclear as the COVID-19 vaccination effort and case counts evolve.

The Joyce K. Salzberg Center for Professional Development is located on the first floor of Gladfelter Hall. The center has been working virtually to help students find internships during the pandemic. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Grayson Meyerowitz knows he’ll be in Tel Aviv, Israel this summer interning for Vayomar, a consulting firm, and exploring the city on the weekends.

But he’s still wondering if Israel’s COVID-19 travel guidelines mean he’ll be “cooped up” in a small apartment for four of the program’s eight weeks, quarantining after his arrival and before his departure, if he isn’t able to get his vaccine beforehand. 

 “It’s all kind of up in the air right now,” said Meyerowitz, a senior political science major.  

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are trying to plan summer internships without knowing entirely what they will look like or how the pandemic will impact their work experience. Some employers are requiring interns to work remotely for the second summer in a row, but as global vaccination numbers rise, other programs are returning to in-person or hybrid work. 

Meyerowitz is looking forward to living and working in Tel Aviv after his previous internship in Israel was canceled last year due to the pandemic, he said. He’s happy to have found the Vayomar position because he hopes to eventually move to Israel, and an internship is a chance to experience living and working there full time. 

But how much time Meyerowitz gets to spend in the office hinges on his ability to get the COVID-19 vaccine before traveling. Inbound travelers to Israel must quarantine upon arrival for 10 to 14 days, but those with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine may apply for exemption, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. Outbound travelers must apply for an exit clearance from the Exceptions Committee, and some may be required to quarantine before departure, but individuals with vaccine certificates from the Israeli Ministry of Health do not need clearance.  

Meyerowitz feels comfortable traveling to Israel this year because of their vaccination efforts. Israel has vaccinated 55 percent of the population with at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Haaretz, an Israeli news publication, reported

“I’m gonna go regardless, I think it’s just a matter of will I get to join the rest of the team in person, or like Facetime for more than half the time,” Meyerowitz said.

Internship opportunities on the job website Glassdoor fell 52 percent between March 2020 and April 2020, and there were 39 percent less internships in April 2020 than in April 2019, CNBC reported

The unemployment rate among Americans aged 20 to 24 is 9.6 percent as of February 2021, compared to 6.3 percent unemployment for this age group in February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the last seven days, the U.S. recorded an average of 112 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Center for Disease Control

Some states have lifted mask mandates and relaxed restrictions on public gatherings, though public health officials fear this may be premature and cause a new rise in cases, CNBC reported.  

Students experienced internship cancellations and sudden transitions to remote work in Spring 2020, in the first few months of the pandemic, The Temple News reported. Some struggled to navigate working from home, while others scrambled trying to find new internships to replace their canceled position. 

Sonia Purohit, a junior media studies and production and public relations major, is currently looking for paid summer internships in Philadelphia and New York, she said. 

Purohit has struggled to find paid positions in her field, and since she began looking in December 2020, she’s done several interviews with employers but hasn’t heard back or received information on whether she got the job. 

Purohit received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 5 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but she only feels comfortable working in person if cases continue to decline and co-workers wear masks and keep a safe distance, she said. 

“With everything with the pandemic that like, if I’m sick they should understand, and I shouldn’t have to feel bad or pressure to come in,” Purohit added.  

As of March 18, more than 415,000 Philadelphians received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 164,000 are fully vaccinated, The Temple News reported.  

On the other side of internships, the pandemic has forced career centers to adapt their programming to suit virtual work and remote networking. 

Liz Anselmo conducted surveys after the Joyce K. Salzberg Center for Professional Development’s fall virtual career fair, and found employers tend to prefer virtual events while students prefer in-person events, but attendance overall remained high, she said. 

This year, the Salzberg Center connected some students to remote internships that would not have been as accessible had they been in person, said Anselmo, associate director of student services.  

“We’ve found that it’s actually presenting more opportunities with students interning in L.A. and Rome, and they’re in their Philly home, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Anselmo added. 

The Center for Student Professional Development in the Fox School of Business is focusing some programming this year on helping students prepare their space for remote interviews and communicating their remote job skills, like staying focused amid distractions at home, said Corinne Snell, assistant dean of student professional development.

“Being in a virtual internship, there are a few challenges, it’s not like you can just walk next door to your boss’s office to ask a question,” Snell said. “You have to reach out electronically or through Zoom or whatever platform that you’re using.”

Hanna Gebreyesus, a junior economics major, accepted an internship at Bank of America on March 11 for the summer, but she doesn’t yet know if it’s remote or in person at the business office in Charlotte, North Carolina, she said. 

Gebreyesus lives in Dallas, Texas with her family, and although working in Charlotte would present challenges, like living alone there and renting a car to commute, she hopes to work in person, she said.

“It’s just completely different having that in-person experience versus the remote, like I’m not going to get the full experience I feel like if it’s going to be remotely, I just don’t think it’s going to be as I want it to be,” Gebreyesus added. 

Girls Inc., a mentorship program for girls five through 18 years old in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, hires most of their unpaid interns from Temple, said Natasha Andrews, director of programs and community engagement at Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. hires about 60 interns per year and about 15 to 20 in the summer, Andrews said. Interns plan activities and meet daily with summer camp participants for one to six weeks.

They are currently doing all remote internships but are looking to a hybrid format for the summer camp programs if summer program partners can maintain social distancing during activities and the majority of interns are vaccinated, Andrews said. 

“If it’s safe, we would like to kind of get back into our normal swing of things,” Andrews said. 

Even though he is committed to his summer internship program, Meyerowitz feels it would be somewhat “pointless” to travel to Israel and spend a lot of time indoors. He hopes he can spend time exploring and going to public spaces like bars to get the full benefit of his time in Israel, he said.

“Part of it’s experiential, I have like weekends off and stuff,” Meyerowitz said. “It was really like, let me get out of America, hopefully it’s some like, you know, sense of normalcy for like, the summer.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the Joyce K. Salzberg Center for Professional Development.

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