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Opinion

Teleworking as an Intern During the Pandemic

Ifeoma Eleazu

Young people across the country are feeling the effects of COVID-19 in different ways—from school closures to cancelled activities to job losses—and they are finding creative solutions to staying connected and coping with the challenges brought on by this pandemic. America’s Promise Alliance through the YES Project is helping youth tell their stories about how COVID-19 is effecting their employment aspirations.

When non-essential businesses began closing throughout the country because of COVID-19, I was surprised that my internship at America’s Promise Alliance extended the option for me to telework. Most of my classmates are left without an internship experience because of the drastic changes that have happened in the past months. My summer job, which I’d hoped would cover my housing, was cancelled, leaving me unemployed and practically homeless. Despite these hard times, I’m extremely grateful and appreciative for all the support that America’s Promise has offered me. Even before we switched to working remotely, the organization constantly reviewed its COVID-19 procedures with transparency so we’d be prepared for when the time came.

I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned throughout my virtual internship experience.

First, I have realized that my productivity is reliant on the environment I create. I’m a person who thrives best in routine and hands-on experience. Working from home entails none of that. I don’t get to ride on the metro over to D.C., and stay connected with everyone in the office. I don’t have the opportunity to help with in-person events or take notes during an in-person meeting while adding my own insights. I have found that I can only do so much to fix my physical environment, and I’ve realized that my mental headspace is a large factor in how much work I produce. Considering that we’re going through a major historical event that none of us has ever experienced before, it’s valid not to be positive all the time. It’s also valid to be angry or sad about what we have lost due to the pandemic. But it’s not okay to let sadness guide our future decisions. It can be disheartening to lose the opportunities we were looking forward to, but now is the time to rebound by continuing to strengthen our abilities in different ways. Take an online language course, fix up your resume, or update your LinkedIn profile!

Second, teleworking creates a lack of boundaries when it comes to communication. Before, work was during work hours and school was during school hours. Now that we are virtual, anyone can contact me at any time of the day. There seems to be no escape from the emails. I can be in bed at midnight and still get emails from my professors regarding new assignments or discussion posts. Now that classes are beginning again in such a strange format, it’s difficult to find a balance between schoolwork and intern work. At times, class conference calls conflict with America’s Promise staff calls. The timing of these calls along with virtual meetings with my advisors for my college can get in the way of me getting work done during the hours that I’ve carved out for my internship. As a result of this, I’ve had to be flexible—adjusting my hours based on the time constraints of my professors and the mountains of new class work that never existed before we went online. I also have to consider the hours for me to be able to get groceries or food from the campus dining hall, since the new limited hours run during the times that I must telework.

Finally, I’ve learned that it’s important to be aware of the decisions around us that impact our lives and the lives of others. For me, that means educating myself on what policymakers are doing for young people and urging Congress to put out a stimulus package that includes supporting students who are still claimed as dependents. My advice is to use the anger you have about what you have lost and put it into something that can ignite change for the greater good.

The coronavirus outbreak could mobilize young people as we demand to be seen and heard. It is time to compel our decisionmakers to listen to us and provide the assistance we direly need.

 

 

The YES Project is possible thanks to the generous support of AT&T, Citi Foundation and State Farm.