Virtual Internships Abroad The Challenge of Flexibility

September 26, 2020
By Angelina Oh, CAS '23

This pandemic has brought forth many unprecedented challenges and experiences into our daily lives. Given the current circumstances, navigating this remote internship was challenging and rewarding in its own unique ways. I was grateful to even have this opportunity to continue learning and growing through new experiences over the summer, but it definitely was different from the internship abroad that I had originally envisioned for myself just a few months prior. In the beginning, I thought that the remote format of the internship would grant me a lot of flexibility to help me maintain a balance between work and leisure. However, the flexibility also turned out to be a challenge for me as it was difficult for me to consistently be motivated.

Because this internship was remote, I did not meet with my advisor every single day over Zoom, so I needed to be productive on my own to get a week’s worth of assignments completed. The physical and mental boundaries of work and free time blurred and I knew I needed to create structure for myself in order to work effectively. To maintain my productivity, I always allotted hours in the afternoon and at night for my internship. Because of the 16-hour time difference between Seoul and San Diego, many of my meetings would take place late at night. Thus, I began working at a different location, far away from my bedroom, so I could create that physical distinction between rest and work. I would even sometimes change up my working location so that I wouldn’t feel bogged down or stuck in one place.

Despite it being very challenging for me at first, I began to appreciate how the format of this internship allowed me to develop time-management and organizational skills given the amount of control I had over my time and how it was spent. If I could go back and change anything, I would have started to structurally plan out my day earlier on and create a schedule to stick by so that I could hold myself accountable for staying on task when needed. I definitely think this internship was a valuable experience for me and allowed me to gain knowledge not only specific to the career path I want to pursue but also to develop the overall skills needed to function in the workplace. In terms of what the future could hold for what a typical work environment may look like, I think a hybrid version of working in the office and at home can be tremendously beneficial for individuals to develop both teamwork capabilities and self-discipline.