By Haley Roberson

More than half of the summer internships scheduled in 2020 were cancelled due to the pandemic, which caused many students to search for other ways to gain experience in their desired career paths, according to CareerUp’s Remote Internships 2020 Covid-19 Impact Survey.

Another study, the Yello Talent Acquisition 2020 Virtual Internship Statistics and Trends report, found that virtual or remote internships became very popular with 84% of college students who said they were willing to participate in this format to gain experience while accommodating for pandemic restrictions.

Whitney Prescott, the Associate Director of External Engagement and Communications at University of Georgia Career Center, said her office currently has 7,300 internships posted with 2,500 of them offered remotely.

“Remote work still allows for strengthening their (the participants) professional skills, building their resume, exploring career options, and growing their professional network,” Prescott said. “Working remotely can also better prepare students for future hybrid/remote opportunities.”

Virtual internships allow participants more flexibility to work around class schedules, work schedules or other commitments. This can promote diversity amongst applicants. Those who have disabilities or serve as caregivers may find participating and gaining experience through remote experiences to be more accommodating and manageable.

Molly Hanna, who did a remote internship at the South Fork Conservancy in Atlanta, said she loved being able to travel back home to North Carolina for long weekends. Her internship only required her to attend some meetings in person, but it was mainly presented in a virtual format.

“The interview process was easier since it involved a couple of zoom meetings, and I could choose to apply for internships in a different city than I was located in at the time,” Hanna said. “It certainly allowed for people to apply from different states, whereas prior interns were more local to Georgia or Atlanta.”

Students usually must assess the cost of relocating or commuting to the internship, but remote internships eliminate such costs and open the possibility of employment on a national or international level.

Hanna said the lack of commute “was helpful in flexibility of my schedule, as I set my own hours totaling 30 hours of work each week.”

Some students struggled with decisions to change their major or career goals due to the implications of COVID-19. Remote internships allowed them more fluidity in attempting their planned major before committing to it solely.

Yello Talent Acquisition’s 2020 study found that 41% of employers reduced the length of their remote internships due to the pandemic, which gave students the opportunity to try different or multiple career paths during one time period.

Hanna found that through her remote internship she “loved working in a consultant-like position,” which she said she could see herself doing in the future. She also said her remote internship allowed her to gain new problem-solving skills that she may not have fully grasped if it had been fully in-person.

“If anything, I think working remotely forced me to think through what I needed to get done in a more independent way,” Hanna said. “I couldn’t just ask my superior what I was supposed to be doing all day long, instead [I was] collaborating on what each week would look like and figuring out problem solving on my own.”

Haley Roberson is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.