COVID-19 is on the forefront of everyone’s mind these last couple of months. From worries of help, to job security, to when the world will return to a state of somewhat normalcy. During this time, almost all students have left Emerson College. Some left behind a place that felt like home, some left behind amazing in-class opportunities, and some even left behind work or internships. 

Through this time of uncertainty, we talked with two Emerson College students, Alexa Bodner (Political Communications ‘21) and Zachary Swasta (Visual Media Arts ‘20),  to talk to them about how COVID-19 has affected their internships. 

Alexa Bodner, #emtern at ActBlue
Zachary Swasta, #emtern at Arlington Community Media

What were some of your responsibilities during your internship and how did these change or were affected by COVID-19?

Alexa: “I am the People and Culture Intern at ActBlue, so my responsibilities mainly include running our day to day communication and scheduling for recruitment, as well as conducting phone interviews, and coordinating with hiring managers! I also work on various people and culture projects when they arise.”

Zach: “So basically, I was just a hand that was there to do whatever was needed production wise. That meant, assisting with any studio shoot, work that was being done in the studio, or helping them prepare for another shoot that they were doing in the evenings. They did a lot of evening recordings of town hall meetings and whatnot. And, I also edited a lot of videos that needed to be done. Sometimes I would even help with the journalism side of things even though they had their own internships, but yeah, it was basically just whatever was there, but we did have our opportunity to also help programming as well.

Now, when COVID-19 struck, obviously I couldn’t go into the office to do a lot of things and because they shut down pretty early, actually before a lot of places and before social distancing. So that’s why my internship was pretty much stalled before, I think students were moved out of the dorms at Emerson. Actually I offered, and I think everyone else who interned there offered too, that we were all willing to work remotely and they seemed pretty willing to let us do that remotely but so far we haven’t really heard much from them about what we can do.”

What is one experience you have from this internship (COVID-19 related or otherwise) that you feel has better prepared you for your future?

Alexa: “I am very grateful that my internship has been able to continue during COVID-19. Since my entire office, including myself, is now working fully remote, it has taught me a lot in terms of time management, online communication, and more!”

Zach: “Well, I believe doing all that studio work has really assisted me because I didn’t really get a whole lot of hands-on experience working in a television studio up until the internship. I guess everything I did at Emerson was so limited due to time and other things, classes and whatnot, keeping me from doing too much because my major was really working in film and not television but I think this way I was able to really expand by the size of my skill set.”

What are your next steps?

Alexa: “I am very grateful that I have been asked back to take over a slightly newer role as the People and Culture fellow! I am excited to continue the work I do as well as gaining new responsibilities.”

Zach: “Obviously, the future is unknown. I was already intimidated this year because I knew that the end of this year and beyond would be a gray area due to me graduating. But now I feel like the last few months and now the next few months have gone even grayer. Because I don’t know when this pandemic, or at least as far as everything being shut down and everyone being quarantined is going to last. Everyone’s very, very optimistic about it going until at least May, with other people being a little more skeptical and saying this could go until as far as next year. I don’t think and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen because see the thing is my student refund is paying for my apartment here in Boston. So it will be especially if places are closed to find a job that would allow me to stay here, especially if it does end as soon as people are saying. I was hoping to do what everyone else wanted to do and move to LA or something where there is a lot  more work in my field and the work that would, you know, guarantee money to pay my loans because that is going to come soon unfortunately.”

Do you have any advice for students interested in this internship or similar opportunities? Also what is your advice for future students navigating for internships in times of uncertainty?

Alexa: “Don’t be afraid to try new things outside of your comfort zone! Coming into college, I never imagined myself doing anything related to recruitment/HR, but when the opportunity presented itself, I said why not, and I am glad I did! My advice to anyone navigating internships right now is to not be afraid to do the same, while there may be a lack of internships in your desired field, it doesn’t hurt to apply to internships outside of your field and possibly learn some new skills or interests you didn’t know you had!”

Zach: “Well, first off, if you’re looking for an internship, and you know if there’s a place you’re really interested in I would advise people to do what I did. So even though I worked at a CMI, there was another internship that I was heavily interested in. And I did visit when I did apply, and I really wanted to work at this place. But the problem was their Communications Manager was not very communicative, ironically enough, so I didn’t hear anything for a while after I applied. So if something like that happens to you, be sure to follow up at least two weeks after you apply if you hear nothing. And if you hear nothing for another week, I would just move on and find something else. Be sure to take your time… 

In regards to times like these, just be resilient. I know that that’s echoed by literally everyone else but even if you go home because of an event like this, where Emerson has to shut down unfortunately, still stay in touch with the city. Still keep following the Boston news outlets, follow Mayor Walsh’s speech because we’re studying here and as college students even though we are seasonal like the snowbirds down south, we still make up a good population of the city and it gets really sad when everyone disappears and Boston doesn’t have those populations. So that’s the first step in resilience, and the second is really just try not let the situation depress you. Try and stimulate your mental health as much as you can, in any way possible, with whatever works for you therapeutically. It could be as simple as yoga or video games but just really try and keep your spirits up and try to stay connected to the city.”

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