Emerson students wary of making definite summer plans due to pandemic

Students+walking+along+Boylston+Street.

Photo: Hongyu Liu

Students walking along Boylston Street.

By Bailey Allen, Staff Writer

With the uncertainty of the pandemic still looming, three Emerson students said they were hesitant to cement summer plans out of fear they would be upended once again. 

After the pandemic upended the economic landscape last March, many summer internships and job offers were rescinded or shifted remote, Career Development Center Marketing and Communications Manager Anders Croft said. Some students said they were still reeling from the uncertainty that brought them, while others recounted the travel plans and celebrations that were canceled.

Gabi Jonikas, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, said she is concerned the pandemic will either prevent or delay her family’s move to downtown Chicago by the end of August, which would delay her search for a job in the city. For now, she works remotely as a digital marketing intern for Cherry Editorial, a digital marketing agency based in Tampa Bay, Florida.

“Currently, my plans are kind of up in the air,” Jonikas said. “I would like to get a job in downtown Chicago and be able to work and continue the internship I already have, but it’s really hard to make solid plans.”

Jonikas spent all of summer 2020 quarantined at home in Illinois due to her severe asthma creating concerns of contracting COVID-19. She said she had difficulty finding remote internship opportunities because many companies were still adjusting to COVID-19. 

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“Because there weren’t a lot of remote internship programs at the time, I was pretty much not doing anything,” Jonikas said. “It felt like a waste of time and an entire summer.”

One of the benefits of the ubiquitous work-from-home culture that has emerged in the past year, Jonikas said, is that it allows her to apply to summer internships she had not previously considered.

“I can now apply to New York and Boston internships without actually having to be on the East Coast to do them,” Jonikas said.

Croft said there are many more virtual internship and job opportunities for students this summer than last. Employers are now more confident in the positions they are able to offer and have a better handle on their remote operations, he said.

“We are in a much better place this year than we were last year,” he said. “Last year, a lot of students were finding their offers being canceled or rescinded by employers, and this year, as we’re coming into summer, it seems that that’s less of the case.”

So many internships switching to an online format may have unexpectedly benefited some students, Croft said.

“Students were finding opportunities with employers that they may not have considered in the past, or companies that for one reason or another they weren’t able to work for,” Croft said. “For example, this semester, we have two students who are working over at NBC Universal, and that’s an opportunity that a lot of students haven’t been able to pursue in the past because they are specifically based in New York City.”

Anna Grace, a sophomore marketing communications major from the Bay Area, California, said she is also worried about finding an internship for this summer, but sees some upsides to remote and virtual opportunities.

“I’m looking at internships and, of course because of the pandemic, most of them are remote, and I think there are pros and cons to that,” Grace said. “I can work anywhere, but at the same time, I don’t really get the hands-on experience that I would ideally like, especially in the industry that I want to go into.”

Grace said she will return to her previous summer job as a lifeguard in the event she doesn’t find an internship. Last year, she continued to work at her local pool while taking an online summer course at Emerson.

“I’m ready to move on from the current job that I have right now, and it’s really hard to transition through that when you’re in a pandemic because not a lot of businesses are hiring,” Grace said. 

Shawn Zhang, a first-year journalism major from Tianjin, China, has not seen his family in over a year because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic. He attended a boarding high school in Massachusetts and would usually go back to China during the summer and winter breaks, he said.

“Some classmates were even saying that they were booking five or six [flights] at the same time, because three or four of them are going to get canceled,” Zhang said. “You’re not guaranteed 100 percent that you can go home. I think I booked two flights and both of them got canceled.”

When the pandemic raged on through the summer, Zhang said he realized if he went back to China, he might not have been able to return to Massachusetts in the fall for his first semester at Emerson. As a result, he stayed with his local host family from boarding school until Emerson classes started. Zhang said he hopes to finally fly back to China to see his family and take on a journalism internship this summer.

“I’ve already gotten my flight tickets—I hope this one isn’t going to be canceled,” Zhang said. “If I go back to China, I might just start looking for [journalism] internships. I’m also a part of my national lacrosse team, so I could have an opportunity to play lacrosse there.”

Jonikas is also struggling with uncertain travel plans. The possibility of traveling to Japan over the summer with her family now seems unlikely, she said.

“We really wanted to do it this summer and now that things kind of seem like summer’s still going to be sort of shut down, we probably won’t be able to go,” Jonikas said.

Grace said she wishes she could travel to visit family and friends, on top of getting a new job.

“Half my family is in England and I’d love to see them,” Grace said. “I also really wanted to go to Thailand and visit a friend who couldn’t make it back to the states this semester.”

Grace said she has come to terms with the fact that her career trajectory may not always go the way she hopes, especially as the unpredictable times persist.

“My personal biggest takeaway from being in a pandemic is learning resilience, and learning that even though you might have a plan, it doesn’t always stick to that,” Grace said.

 

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