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Apurv Shah
Apurv Shah

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The Pandemic Internship Hunt

The General Scenario

If you haven’t noticed, we are living amidst a global pandemic. Other than posing an obvious health risk, it has cost many people their jobs and internships. Rates of people filing for unemployment are highest in recent times and with all restaurants and places of public gathering closed, most people do not seem to have many options but to file for unemployment. This has taken a toll on economies and been a burden on people’s health.

The number of unemployed people has spiked by approximately 20 million people since March 2020 when the pandemic blew up. It was an unexplored territory where everyone was learning how to navigate through these unprecedented times together as one human race.

How it affected different people

People were affected very differently by the pandemic. Being an international student in USA, I saw many of my friends board a flight overnight back to their home countries leaving their rooms in a mess and essentially booking a one-way ticket with no certainty of what the future holds. They had no idea at the time whether they would be able to come back for internships or even the Fall semester. They also had to face a lot of restrictions and strict laws back in their home countries because they were coming from USA, the country with the best healthcare yet ironically the highest number of cases.

Many students lost their junior year internship (widely regarded as the most important internship) due to cancellations or were unable to find one because of hiring freezes across the job market. Most internships were shortened and converted to a remote setup while some were pushed to the forthcoming fall and winter terms. Some degrees require set number of hours of compulsory internship and COVID-19 pandemic has put such students in very difficult spots. Many students have had to reschedule graduation and that has ruined a lot of career plans.

This NY Times article covers the many different situations that students were forced into and how many companies reacted. (Read it)

Many new graduates who were celebrating their new, hard-earned offers had to part with it because so many companies rescinded their offers due to lack of resources.

International students in many stages of their career were affected. Many who had just graduated lost their chances of getting H1-visa and were living in uncertainty. Many who had graduated in the past 2 years and were nearing the end of their CPT had to make the tough decisions. Graduates, celebrating their hard earned offer suffered due to companies rescinding offers.

How it affected me

I study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and like all other schools nationwide and internationally, UMass too put out a statement on 13th March that it would be shutting down its campus and everyone who had gone for the spring break were requested not to come back. I immediately booked a flight to Illinois where I lived safely with my uncle and aunt to whom I am very thankful.

On the internship front, I had unfortunately not secured one till late February. But things started working in my favor when I heard back from 3 companies within 2 days scheduled interviews. However, the situation soon changed for the worse as in-person interviews were pushed to online and were
subsequently cancelled due to the developing COVID situation.
I had a lot on my plate, the sudden shift to online learning, staying inside the house all day and the increased difficulty of the internship application process and things really added up. I am not complaining about the situation but it definitely took time to adjust to and since has become the new normal.
Am I blaming the pandemic for me not getting an internship? Would I have had an internship if this did not happen? No and not sure.

While things did become difficult, I am pretty sure that all the companies I applied to had valid reasons not to go ahead with my application ( or at-least I hope that was the case), which may be anything from me not being a good fit to them coming to an hiring freeze.

The biggest pressure that this brought on me and many others like me was that we had a 4 month break ahead of ourselves and everyone was trapped inside . In the absence of an internship, I felt the extreme need to be productive everyday throughout the summer as I would have been in any internship. My aim was to be at par with other candidates who would have internship experience on their resumes and compete for the next round of Summer 2021 internships. Self learning and online, self-paced courses require immense self-motivation and is not an easy process specially when some courses span over 2 months.

I learnt a lot during this summer about how I could organize my day and get a lot done. I decided to indulge in projects with friends and going through some certification exams for more credibility. I try everyday to finish a set amount of tasks and to stay active on GitHub and LeetCode, stay in touch with my programming skills and read different books to expand my knowledge. The Pandemic Internship hunt has been a stressful and rewarding process with a ton of ups and downs but I hope that the world goes back to normal by the end of this year although I am not sure what normal looks like anymore.

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