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Pandemic-Era Internships: Professional Experience in the Time of COVID-19

For many college students, an internship is a quintessential component to their undergraduate experience. But what happens when a global pandemic alters the way most companies and organizations operate? How do students gain professional experience from home? Hear from several MMC students about their experiences as interns during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as from the Office of Career Services which oversees the process.

At the start of the pandemic, the concept of virtual internships was a bit of a mystery, challenging organizations with the immense burden of transitioning their programs to virtual formats. Ultimately, a number of companies decided to cancel for the spring semester, thereby throwing yet another wrench into students’ academic plans.

Yet now, according to Ryan Atwell, MMC’s Assistant Director of Career Services and Internship Programs, most companies and organizations have embraced the virtual internship model and the number of internships available to students continues to rise.

Life Lessons from Home

Martha Madrid ?21 For Martha Madrid ’21, a virtual fall internship with the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), fit well with her hectic senior year as an Urban and Environmental Sustainability major with double minors in International Studies and Theatre. Scalabrini International provides aid to refugees, internally displaced people, and seafarers across the globe through a network of shelters, centers, schools, and clinics. Throughout the fall, Madrid’s regular responsibilities included writing reports for donors, institutional document research, assisting with funding applications, and proofreading and translating documents.

“I loved working remotely for this internship because I had a lot of flexibility in my hours,” says Madrid. “I was given projects with deadlines, and I could choose when I worked on them. This helped me balance my workload with my schoolwork and full-time job, and also helped me hone my time management skills.”

Like many of her fellow New Yorkers, Madrid also appreciated the time saved from her daily commute to Manhattan, and says she has also improved her email communication skills—a critical skill in an increasingly digital world.

Interning Anywhere, Any Time

Olivia Marrone ’20 had already completed two in-person internships when she applied for and was accepted into her most recent program with Museum Editions, an art consulting agency in Manhattan. Marrone, who graduated in December 2020 with a concentration in Fashion Marketing and a minor in Digital Journalism, worked as the agency’s social media and online product intern, helping to curate the brand’s cohesive and visually striking Instagram feed, writing branded marketing content, and managing product visibility.

“It was an adjustment since both of my previous internships were done in person, but since the nature of the work is digital it made the adjustment easier,” she explains. “My internship advisor made sure that there were frequent Zoom meetings to make the internship feel as close to how it would be if we were working in person.”

Despite the unusual work set up, Marrone believes her virtual internship has helped her improve a number of skills, including the ability to quickly adapt to change and her understanding and use of technology. These skills are useful for top quality resumes and cover letters, crucial in post-COVID professional fields. “Since internships are primarily virtual now, candidates are no longer limited by geographical location,” explains Atwell. “While this broadens the landscape of opportunities for students, it can also make virtual internships more competitive since students from New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco are now all able to complete for the same internship.”

To set yourself apart from other applicants, Atwell not only encourages building up strong application materials, but also networking online with employers and hiring managers before applying. The Office of Career Services is available to meet with students to review resumes and cover letters, assist with interview preparation, or to talk more about how to effectively network online using LinkedIn. Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor here on MMC Career Connection.


This story is part of a larger series, MMC Together, published by Marymount Manhattan College’s Communications team. Have questions or a story lead? Email Communications@mmm.edu.