Virtual Internships Abroad Obstacles and Growth

September 22, 2020
By Anna Jiang, SEAS '23

It’s March 2020, and my summer is looking absolutely fantastic. Me, a freshman who (let’s face it) never really knows what’s going on in her life, now has plans to intern in Seoul, Korea for two months. Two months in another country, living alone, soaking up the culture, and experiencing new things - I must have been dreaming. And then COVID-19 said “yeah, and keep dreaming <3”

Suddenly, my internship was canceled within a week of my acceptance. A few weeks later, I moved out of my dorm and to my parent’s house for the rest of the semester. Basically, things weren’t looking too great. My summer was looking pretty empty at this point, so I decided to accept a job as a TA for a summer engineering program at Penn. Later on, my friends suggested that I take a summer course with them to get a requirement out of the way. I wasn’t doing much anyway so why not, I thought.

Then, I got the email that my internship had moved online. I already had two other commitments, but I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Besides, summer is a whole three months, right? I might as well take advantage of everything being virtual and make the most of it.

This summer, I definitely learned so much more than I expected in such a short amount of time. Balancing my schedule was tricky, as there was a week where my TA job, summer course, AND internship overlapped (and I had a midterm that week to top it all off). Luckily, my other commitments ended shortly after that week and I was able to focus all my attention on my internship. My time management skills improved immensely from this experience and while scheduling was a complete headache at first, I soon became comfortable with time differences and can now calculate them almost flawlessly.

Besides the general soft skills I’ve gained, I was also able to work on a major project for my company, The DECK. I was tasked with designing and coding their English website, which allowed me to be able to code outside of class. I was able to translate my skills from the classroom towards professional and real work settings, which allowed me to get a glimpse of working in computer science as a career!

This past month was definitely nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. In high school, my summers mainly consisted of sleeping, painting, and eating lunch with friends. While I was still able to preserve some of these aspects and set aside time on weekends to give myself a well-deserved break, I really pushed myself this summer to be productive. 

I had previously felt that staying at my childhood home for so long had been weighing me down and I was slowly regressing to my high school self, but this summer proved that I could still grow despite my environment (and this pandemic). Of course, this summer came with many obstacles and I was basically working all day and night (and at one point, I even had a power outage), but I don’t regret any of it. Ultimately, I’m glad that I took advantage of this opportunity and I’m proud of how far I’ve come since March 2020.