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I Lost My Summer Internship Because of Coronavirus: What Now?

I had always been told that in order to be successful after college, you needed to get a high-profile internship. Every college tour listed off the impressive places their students had interned, so I was taught to equate a summer internship with success. You might not have gotten paid, but your reward would come in an acceptance to law school, medical school, or that first year analyst position at Goldman Sachs. 

I thought that I had finally reached the point where I could see a successful future for myself in tangibility when I was offered one of those “high-profile summer internships.” I truly thought this summer was going to be the one that I finally cemented the rest of my life. This was a lofty goal — one I should have known was much too much to ask for — because now, I am back to square one. 

I lost my prestigious sports writing summer internship offer due to concerns for COVID-19. When sports were cancelled … so were my internships. Apparently, you do not need sports writers when there are no players to write about. 

Perhaps my intentions were a bit far-fetched, although I truly saw this summer as a way to grow, to learn, to write, but in the course of an email, that reality was no longer an option within the confines of a structured internship program.

I had no other prior notification that they were considering canceling my program. Instead I was officially told on March 21st that all internships had been canceled. The email claimed that the program has been considering this option for weeks. 

So then, I was left without any options, weeks after most deadlines had passed. 

Most local summer camps had canceled their sessions and those who didn’t had already hired their staff, all study abroad programs had been canceled, no job was hiring. 

The question of could I go to law school if I spent an entire summer not bolstering my resume? loomed over me as I spent hours searching the web for anyone and anything that was hiring summer interns. 

But I know that my circumstances are not so different from those of hundreds upon hundreds of other students. Posts on Zoom memes for self quaranteens lamented each day about dozens more students whose internships were pulled from under their feet. Every night a new posts said of “drop an F in the chat for all those who lost their internship.” So I dropped an F, not just for me, but for the communal feeling of future dread that all of us feel. 

That’s to say that we are all quite privileged in that group. We might have lost a piece of our college experience and the false sense of future security an internship provides, but we are still safe, alive, and healthy. Many others cannot say the same. 

And that is the reason so many companies do not want to take the risk of an intern because they are unsure whether there will be an office this June. The coronavirus has killed thousands, but thousands of businesses will fall in its aftermath. Thousands of families will no longer have a source of income.  

These decisions make sense, they really do, but it still stings.

Thinking about myself during these times is selfish, and I cannot deny that, but I cannot stop thinking that maybe my future is not as sure as I once thought it was. I know I have a right to be upset about my circumstances, but bigger problems rage on outside of my window.  

As much as I was told the world isn’t fair as a child, I can’t help hoping that perhaps it could be. You would put in 110%, the world will give you 110% back. But that is just not the case. Sometimes you put in all the work and more, and things don’t pan out. 

I can’t even be mad. I needed to lose my internships because we are taking proper measures to flatten the curve. I should be happy that the company I considered working for was willing to put the safety of others before generating more profit. So, I can’t be mad because I have no one to be mad at. These companies made the right decision, they did not choose for there to be a pandemic. I know I put in my 110%. The world just isn’t fair sometimes.

In truth, when I wrote What now? in the title, it was not to signal that you would learn what your best options are — instead it was me, calling out into the void to ask what now? because I honestly don’t know. 

I have applied to over 158 internships since I lost my original offer. Yes, somehow I found 158 places that I was interested in working for. I wrote 158 different cover letters, and since then, I have already gotten 23 responses that those internship programs have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. So, at this moment, I feel deflated at best, hopeless at worst. 

The only silver lining is that I found some really great opportunities in my daily scourge of internship databases. I was so focused on what I had that I never looked farther. Most people are not looking for student journalists with no tangible skills besides listing out tennis facts and writing her feelings, but I keep hoping, hoping that perhaps this pandemic will die down and someone will open up an application and take a chance on that particular student journalist. 

Yet every morning I wake up and my situation is the same, and the situation outside my apartment in New York gets worse. I know it’s naive to think that this will be over soon and that I will get my dream summer internship. But nevertheless, the thought still occurs.

I was taught that I would never be successful post-graduation if I did not get an internship. And odds are I will not get an internship this summer. Odds are a lot of college students won’t. But I will keep applying every day until I can no longer do so. And if it doesn’t work out? I’ll just have to learn on my own because a pandemic is not going to make me unsuccessful in my career. It can’t. I won’t let it. The world may be unfair, but I hope that I have enough autonomy from fate to know that I can still do this. 

Because I am still writing, I am still learning. It may not be within the walls of an internship, or even within the knowledge of knowing that an internship will be coming, but I’m doing everything I set out to do. It may be harder this way, but this is the way things have to be. I lost a really good internship offer, and honestly it hurts. But perhaps I might be better off this way, defining my own success. 

Elizabeth Karpen

Columbia Barnard '22

Lizzie Karpen is a junior at Barnard College, the most fuego of women’s colleges, studying Political Science and English with a concentration in Film. To argue with her very unpopular opinions, send her a message at [email protected] or @lizziekarpen on Instagram and Twitter.
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