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Sarah Ayers - 5/4/2020

My name is Sarah Ayers and I am currently a junior at Westminster College, majoring in political science and history. After college, I plan to go to law school and study intellectual property law. Since January I have been interning with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an opportunity I found through Missouri Intern Connect.  I worked in the office part-time but the stay-at-home order forced all employees to work remotely.

Being an intern at this time is a truly unique experience. It’s an opportunity to adapt and practice being flexible. Part of the learning curve in college is learning how to be self-directed since your schedule is largely up to you. Working from home takes it to a whole new level as the structure and routines that have been established after a semester and a half have been interrupted.

At the beginning of quarantine, it was important to communicate with my advisor and my supervisor about how my internship would be transitioned. My school offered alternative ways for us to receive the final hours for our credits, so I will be doing half of my hours for the Missouri Chamber and the other half on research papers about the field I am currently interning in. It’s been a challenge to adjust to the routines while also fighting through the mid-semester slump. All my professors and peers have been very encouraging and checking in with each other which has been helpful.

Another challenge I’ve encountered is setting the boundary between working on my internship, schoolwork, and home life. One way I have found to combat this is to establish certain environments I study and work in and certain ones I can use for personal time. I had the same challenge of finding a balance a few years ago during my first-ever internship. My friend and I decided that we were going to the local movie theater $5 Tuesday every Tuesday evening so we could spend time together and relax. I found that it helped a lot. It gave me more energy because I had something to look forward to and I was able to see my friends. During quarantine we’ve reinstated movie Tuesdays remotely, which gives us time to check in with each other in this stressful time. 

 So far, I have enjoyed the flexibility of working at home on my own time. It allows me to do things like movie Tuesdays with my friends and take care of my niece. During quarantine, I am babysitting my niece during the day since both of her parents work in the healthcare industry full-time. (Thank you to all of our doctors, nurses and other essential workers!) The flexibility of working from home means that I can complete my work when I'm available and in the comfort of my home. Having my favorite snacks a room away helps for motivational purposes.  

I have figured out a few other tricks that have helped me at this time. The week before, I review with my sister when I have Zoom meetings, the things I have due that week and what days she has the most work so we are aware of what the other person has going on that week.  When we know what is going on with people in our house, we can give them the space they need and the assistance to help them, if needed. It also helps me plan for my week. Some of my friends who are living with their big families, or have forgetful family members, have posted white boards or papers on their door with their schedules of what they are doing at that moment.

Another trick is to set a date and time when you will communicate with advisors and supervisors. Having a clear plan of communication establishes what is expected of me as a student and intern during this time.   

The final tip I’ve picked up is one I hope I won’t have to use. I have an internship with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office that I also found on Intern Connect. As of right now, it is still on for this summer. If an internship gets cancelled or shortened you can still list it on your resume — just include a note about how it was changed due to the pandemic.

If your internship has been cancelled, not all hope has been lost. While some businesses do not have the capacity for interns right now, others are unexpectedly booming and have opened a variety of internships quickly. 

We are living in strange times. While this won’t last forever, the lessons we as students are learning about the workforce, we will carry forever. There's not a rulebook on how to work in quarantine. If something about your situation doesn’t work for you, adjust it until you can find something that does. This is a good time to pivot and use your creativity. Good luck!