Opinion | Remote internships are better than nothing but will not offer the same opportunities


By Susanna Chilver, Second Year, Politics with Quantitative Research Methods

I have dreamed for years of my time as a career woman in the Big Smoke. Pret coffee in one hand, work phone in the other, I picture myself boarding the Tube to work, sitting next to like-minded young professionals all on our way to ‘the top’ (all to the tune of KT Tunstall’s ‘Suddenly I See’, à la Devil Wears Prada).

An internship has always seemed like the necessary stepping-stone to making this a reality, so what of them now that we live in these ‘unprecedented times’?

In four short months it will be proven whether or not Johnson’s June 21st road map comes true and whether or not summer internships will be in person or remote. In the case of the latter, is it worth it?

'Remote working will be a huge setback in terms of grasping how an actual office operates' | Unsplash / Adolfo Felix

Remote working will be a huge setback in terms of grasping how an actual office operates. For those of us who haven’t yet had any professional experience, sitting in front of a computer screen every day, five days a week, while completing work that we have little real knowledge about may well be a continuation of the lacklustre motivation that has been guiding us through university recently.

Obviously, internships should only be pursued if you have a genuine curiosity about that career so, in theory, the work will be enjoyable whether in person or remote.

Then again, we all picked our degrees because they were subjects we found interesting, and look at our student satisfaction ratings now. Remote internships will be offering the challenging, professional work without the exciting complement of new, glamorous surroundings.

Networking plays a greater role in some professions than others

Following that, there is going to be severely reduced opportunity to engage in all-important networking.

Networking plays a greater role in some professions than others. For creative arts students in particular, it’s often a case of 'not what you know, but who you know'. There is no one to run errands for, or to assist on an edit with, or to suggest subjects or images to if you’re sat in your bedroom staring at your laptop.

There are no events to organise, influential conversations to have or opportunities to volunteer if your daily commute is to your kitchen and back. There’s no mingling to be done in a socially distanced universe.

In a normal year, internships provide a dynamic and exciting change to student life

It must also be said that remote internships are yet another product of our contemporary culture of hyper-productivity. Despite a complete lack of economic security, thousands dying of COVID-19, no legal socialising and a widespread mental health crisis, students are still expected to find a productive and career-focused way to spend their longest break from studying.

In a normal year, internships provide a dynamic and exciting change to student life. This year, they are likely to provide a continuation of the problems already being faced by students.

That being said, it is difficult to find a solution: the world must keep turning and we must act as though there is light at the end of the Covid tunnel. Remote internships, in this regard, are a lot better than nothing.

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The glamorous vision I have of working in the City might not quite correspond with the reality of my first foray into the workplace this summer -  I’m reminded that Anne Hathaway’s reality didn’t match her expectations for working at Runway in The Devil Wears Prada either.  

But whether my upcoming internship is in person or remote, I hope societal expectations change and that there is less pressure to be constantly high performing on students.

Moreover, this year will highlight that those who manage to secure remote internship can still have something to put on their CV, whereas those who don’t can actually relax as they aren’t missing out on anything too great.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Chris Montgomery

Have you got an internship this summer? Let us know!