This past semester led to a new and unusual college experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. My bedroom became my classroom and my class discussions became Zoom breakout rooms. As the world moved virtual, I wondered what the future of internships would hold. As a college student, internships are a vital way to gain real-world experience. I was interviewing and applying to internships when it seemed as if the world came to a halt.
This summer, I was one of two interns in the State Fair of Texas’ marketing department. During a time with so much uncertainty, I felt incredibly lucky to still have some form of an internship, remote or otherwise.
Despite not being in a traditional setting, I was determined to make the most out of my virtual internship. My little apartment became my new office, and I tried to create a work schedule to simulate an office environment as much as possible. I would wake up, get ready for the day, and then log on to our daily Zoom call.
My week would consist of scheduled calls and weekly tasks. At the beginning of the week, we would get a presentation on a different marketing area related to the Fair. The next day, we would be assigned our projects for the week. I could complete these projects on my own time before they were due the following week. As a team, we would also have check-in calls for any questions about that week’s assignments. I found our check-in calls to be incredibly helpful. We went over our work and received constructive edits and tips, which allowed me to produce my best work.
There is no handbook for how to turn an in-person internship virtual during a pandemic. Still, the Fair worked hard to give us the best possible experience. The marketing team was committed to teaching us about all aspects of the Fair. They worked with us to provide as much of a hands-on experience as possible. Seeing my first social post on Instagram was a genuinely surreal moment.
Some parts of a virtual internship were easier than others to adjust to. I enjoy listening to podcasts and music while I work. It was nice being able to play them aloud in my apartment without feeling like I was disrupting anyone around me. I also enjoyed that I could work from wherever I wanted to that day. Some days in the mornings, I sat on my patio before the Texas heat became unbearable, while other days, I would rotate between my desk and dining room table for a change of scenery. This virtual flexibility allowed me to take a break from work and take a walk outside for a creative reset.
I adjusted pretty quickly to this new normal. However, when I compare my previous in-person internship, I realize I miss the little social aspects of working in an office. I miss chatting with co-workers over coffee and getting to know them on a more personal level. The social element of work changed with moving virtual. However, I did get to meet my co-workers’ pets on our Zoom calls, which always brought a smile to my face.
I learned about the importance of being efficient during meeting times. I would come prepared with any questions I had. I also focused on being as proactive as I could. All of this made communication as easy and productive as possible.
While not what I pictured doing for the summer, my virtual internship ended up being more beneficial than I could have imagined. It taught me the importance of open communication and time management. I also learned how to work virtually with people I have never met in person before. I feel more prepared now than ever to enter into a digital-first work environment.
Abigail (Abba) Yaney, is a senior and current Chapter president at Southern Methodist University PRSSA. Abba is double majoring in public relations and strategic communication and psychology. She has held many internships during her college career, most recently with the State Fair of Texas. She is also a fellow in the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs department at SMU. She looks forward to leading her university’s Chapter of PRSSA this year.