The Iacocca International Internship Program gives Lehigh students the opportunity to participate in research abroad during the summer. Abroad Internships programs have been canceled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Students lose out on summer internship opportunities amid COVID-19

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Coronavirus is taking a toll on Lehigh students’ summer plans as social distancing continues to be necessary in the effort to mitigate the disease’s spread. 

Students regularly have internships lined up, take summer classes, work for Lehigh’s summer programs, or find a job elsewhere. Due to COVID-19, however, students have had to adjust to different summer plans and a different economy than what they had anticipated. 

Lehigh students have reported their jobs being delayed, moved remotely, or being canceled altogether. 

Skyler McCabe, ’21, was offered a position at CitiBank as a corporate summer analyst. The program was supposed to last 10 weeks starting June 8, but it has been delayed to July 6 — with the full 10-week compensation unchanged.

“I think this summer will look different, and obviously, some aspects will be sacrificed, but at the core, the circumstances and changes at hand have just shown me the commitment and care Citi has for their employees,” McCabe said. “It feels special to be a part of a company that is clearly fully dedicated to supporting their young talent.” 

McCabe is using the extra time until her start date at Citi to work for her past employer, pursue her New Jersey Real Estate License and take summer classes at Lehigh to fulfill leftover degree requirements. 

Abroad internship opportunities were also canceled, including those accepted into Lehigh’s Iacocca internship program. Students have been given the option to defer their Iacocca experience until next summer if they were accepted into the program. 

Jessica Franolic, ’22, was planning on traveling to Bordeaux, France, this summer for a research internship on sustainable materials. She is faced with the decision of deferring the opportunity or choosing not to do it at all. 

“I’m not 100 percent sure if it would be better to take another offer instead of going abroad next summer because the summer before senior year is a really important summer for internships that would follow into a job offer,” Franolic said. 

Because these internships were canceled so late in the semester, however, Franolic is having trouble finding other job opportunities for this summer. 

“Most of the companies that were hiring have already closed their internships now, either having canceled them or already hired interns, so there aren’t a ton of positions available for me,” Franolic said. 

Franolic isn’t the only student with this problem — many companies are canceling their internship programs and have put recruiting on hold until they have more certainty about the future. 

Sophie Champ, ‘22, said two of the companies she applied to for summer internships could not hire summer interns because they weren’t economically stable enough to add more people onto their staffs. 

“It’s frustrating for me because these opportunities are really important in my life, but you have to understand that they are just trying to deal with this situation,” Champ said. “It’s tough getting my hopes up, but I’m really lucky to not be relying on these opportunities for my life and to keep myself supported.”

Champ is also planning on doing Lehigh’s co-op internship program in the fall, where she will be interning at a pharmaceutical company that works on COVID-19 testing. Fortunately, even if Lehigh goes remote in the fall, Champ doesn’t think this internship will be canceled because the company supports the drug and vaccine research. 

Her experience is still being affected, however, because she can no longer take summer classes on Lehigh’s campus.

“It’s been tough for me, to put the same amount of time and energy into my work remotely with all the distractions that come along with being home and dealing with this situation in the world, especially being in a different time zone,” Champ said. “It’s really hard to just sit in front of a screen watching a teacher talk instead of actively learning like I would be at Lehigh. I am not as excited or optimistic about having a great summer because I will likely be locked inside my house for two months.” 

John Cummings, ’21, said despite his internship at Relativity Space, a company that 3D prints rockets, switching to remote work and losing out on the opportunity to work in Los Angeles for the summer, he feels lucky to still have his job. 

“I think it will obviously have a negative impact on the overall experience, however, I feel very fortunate to still have an internship,” Cummings said. “The company that I’m working with is being absolutely incredible because they are sending me my own equipment, so I can work from home, and are setting up Zoom teleconferences for us, so that even though we can’t be there in person, we still can have a good experience.” 

The uncertainty of the future during a global pandemic leaves many aspects of life subject to change, leaving students at a loss for what to do this summer. 

The Center for Career and Professional Development was unable to comment on how they are helping students during this time. 

In an email, the Career Center said there are remote career labs Monday through Friday, online document reviews for students’ resumes or cover letters and one-on-one coaching appointments.

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