For many students at the University of Michigan, summer is a time to gain experience in the real world through jobs and internships. However, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and worldwide has continued to rise, many summer internships and jobs have been canceled, leaving some students scrambling to find other plans.

Besides being a valuable experience for learning, internships are often stepping stones to full-time job offers. In a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in 2019, 57.5 percent of graduates in the class of 2019 who had internship experience received full-time job offers. 

LSA senior Nissa Thodesen-Kasparian had planned for an internship at Estrel Berlin in Germany since October, with hopes of finding a full-time job in Berlin at the conclusion of her internship.

“My original plans for post-graduation were to continue searching for a full-time job while in Berlin (through May and June) so that I could move onto this position immediately after I left the Estrel,” Thodesen-Kasparian said.

Now, she’s struggling to find alternative plans.

“The most jarring thing about this process then has been that now I am scrambling a bit to find another summer internship or full-time job, which is a bit difficult because a lot of deadlines have already passed and there’s still a chance summer internships even in Michigan might be pushed back,” Thodesen-Kasparian said.

Other students, like LSA sophomore Josh Bauman, expressed worry about how the loss of summer opportunities would affect how graduate and medical schools evaluated applications. As a pre-med student, undergraduate research is often considered important for prospective medical and graduate school applicants.

“I was going to continue a (research) internship that I had from last year,” Bauman said. “I’d say I feel like some of my competitive advantage is being taken away against my will. Who is to say that my med school application might look weaker than it would have with a blank spot in the junior year summer slot where other students may have completed internships, published papers, studied abroad.”

For LSA sophomore Lena Vushaj, the cancellation of her summer internship working with the National Security of Albania to research archives from the communist regime was not only a loss of an educational experience but also a missed opportunity to explore her family heritage.

“My parents were from Albania and they experienced communist Albania, so I guess it was not only an educational experience, but it was more of an experience of personal growth,” Vushaj said. “And in the future I want to be a lawyer — maybe an immigration lawyer — so knowing what people went through and what made them the way they are today would’ve helped me better understand them.” 

Furthermore, the lack of communication between internships and students have left many frustrated. LSA sophomore Louie Orleans has yet to receive an official statement on the cancellation of his planned internship in Washington, D.C. through the University’s Public Service Intern Program. He said this uncertainty is hindering him from committing to alternative summer plans.

“Lots of the jobs and internships have gotten delayed or are unresponsive … I don’t have a summer job at this point, but I’m still uncertain if I can even take summer classes without knowing what’s happening with the program,” Orleans said.

Thodesen-Kasparian expressed similar thoughts. After receiving a mass email from her program coordinator, Thodesen-Kasparian said she hasn’t received any further contact from anyone — including Estrel Berlin — addressing her individual situation.

“The most frustrating part of the whole process was the fact that I felt like I wasn't really consoled individually about my internship,” Thodesen-Kasparian said. “I understand that there are limits to what the University can do and it made sense to cancel all internships en masse early on, but it was honestly frustrating to me that my internship and plans for my future were up and canceled on my behalf before I could really even consider alternative options."

Despite the current environment, Thodesen-Kasparian said she is thankful for her resources. 

“The whole situation was upsetting, but more than anything right now I'm just grateful that I’m back home with my family where I feel safe during these uncertain times because by no means is that everyone's situation,” Thodesen-Kasparian said.

Reporter Sarah Zhao can be reached at srahzhao@umich.edu.

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