COVID-19 pandemic interrupting student internships

Emily Morris, WXOU News Director

The spread of COVID-19 has taken hold of classes, moving learning into a solely online forum. Internship courses, however, may be the one exception. The continuation of the winter 2020 semester’s internships is entirely in the hands of individual companies, and most have chosen to stick to the status quo — for now.

“So far, only a small percentage of student internship experiences have been affected by COVID-19,” said Robert Sidelinger, communication program director and internship coordinator at Oakland University. “Some sites are going remote and creating plans for students to intern remotely. Other sites are disbanding their internships and terminating interns.”

Even though the majority of internships have remained unaffected, some students are forced to cope with sudden changes: adapting to virtual interning, sudden dismissal and incomplete hour requirements. OU is offering some lenience because of these unprecedented precautions.

“Staying informed and keeping up to date is the best plan possible,” Sidelinger said, “but things are changing quickly with little or no notice, so everyone needs to remain patient and flexible.”

Although most students currently will have sustained experience at their internship sites, some still have to grapple with a sudden change to remote experience. Alisa Novelli, an OU senior studying communication, has been interning with an on-demand delivery service called Herculeze for the past two months and was just informed she will be resorting to remote work. Although she focuses on Herculeze’s online platform, she said experiencing this change in the midst of her senior was “heartbreaking.”

“You dedicate four to five years of your life to get a degree, and this is it?” she said. “It is really sad to have my experiences at a university altered in such a dramatic and sudden way.”

Students lacking in required weeks or hours at their internship sites do not need to fret about passing. If a business has released its intern but returns to normal scheduling in the near future, interns are able to delay their completion and simply earn an incomplete (IC) grade for now. On the other hand, if a business cannot provide a return timeframe for interns, their current week and hour amount will be accepted.

“Ideally, we want students around professionals, working in a professional setting,” Sidelinger said. “But these are extreme circumstances, and we also want students to still complete their capstone experiences in the best way possible, given what is happening.”

Internships are an option to give young adults their first taste of their desired career. Because of the wave of coronavirus in Michigan, some students are having a stepping stone in their career cut short. Most locations are choosing to function normally, though — among all of the campus cancellations, internships are one of the last pieces of OU that, overall, is still partially intact.