From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday, Medill third-year Zoe Malin is not a student — she’s an intern at CNN.
After not being as engaged during Spring Quarter, Malin, a global business intern on CNN’s First Move with Julia Chatterley podcast, decided to take on a fall internship. Alongside the internship, which she takes through the Chicago Field Studies program, Malin takes one other class, resulting in an increased workload.
“I tried so hard to love my virtual classes, and I tried so hard to really feel motivated by them and inspired by them … but I just didn’t,” Malin said. “I really just felt bad all the time and just not like myself.”
Many students who decided to do a fall internship felt demotivated or uninspired in spring, looking to their work to pull themselves out of the rut. Other students decided the remote nature of this fall’s internships allowed them to look for resumé-building opportunities without having to relocate or commute.
Andrew Rowan spends his workdays watching MSNBC from his remote newsroom in search of the best moments to repost to the organization’s social media. Like Malin, the Medill second-year also decided he needed something more.
“I sort of had a feeling that this fall was going to look different no matter what was going on with housing status,” said Rowan, who’s living at home in New Jersey this quarter. “I took classes like everyone else in the spring and just didn’t find them as fulfilling virtually as I had on campus in the fall and winter.”
Medill first-year Alex Perry spends her weekdays learning about journalism both in the classroom and on the job, training to provide reporting support on the 2020 presidential election for the Telegraph in Macon, Georgia. Her fall fellowship is not a direct reaction to Spring 2020 — after all, she was a high school senior at the time — but rather a response to housing changes for Fall Quarter.
“I think a large part of my decision to take on more work this quarter was because I figured, ‘I’m at home, I’m quarantining, I’m not going anywhere,’” Perry said. “I applied to this [fellowship] after we were told that freshmen wouldn’t be allowed on campus, so I knew that it would be manageable.”
While many students like Rowan, Perry and Malin chose to supplement their Fall Quarter classes with an internship in response to the remote Spring Quarter, Jacob Wit is not among them. The second-year economics major found his fall internship with XALGORITHMS as a result of connections he made while doing research over the summer with the Northwestern Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling. When Wit’s summer research ended, an XALGORITHMS executive offered to pay him to continue his work with the company. Wit wanted to see the project he had started through to the end, so he accepted the offer.
Despite the remote nature of Wit’s fall internship, he did not describe any impact of either the remote Spring Quarter or the coronavirus pandemic as a whole on his decision to take on a fall internship.
RTVF fourth-year Charlie Rhoad’s fall internship story more closely resembles that of Wit than that of any of the other three students. Rhoad is interning at Katch Media, where he collects data by watching and cataloging information about at least three movies each week with the eventual goal of creating a movie recommendation algorithm.
While Rhoad explained the internship is not particularly career-building, he decided to move forward with this particular internship because of the general ease of the work involved as well as the ability to watch and catalogue movies on his own time.
Northwestern students aren’t the only ones who sought out internships for the remote fall. According to an August article published by Current, this fall, NPR received almost ten times as many applications (just over 20,000) for half as many positions compared to last fall. According to NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara, this year’s numbers are due to the positions’ remote nature, allowing potential interns to apply without worrying about relocating.
When it comes to balancing coursework with their internship, each student has their own strategy. In Malin’s case, a strict schedule helps her keep up. And with her internship consisting of very set hours, it’s much easier to live two, distinct lives: professional in the morning, student in the evening.
Rowan is a part-time student this quarter, taking one synchronous and one asynchronous class. Like Malin, Rowan’s schedule helps him break up the monotony by separating his days at the virtual office from his days in a virtual classroom.
“When you’re virtual, extracurricular activities sort of feel like another thing to do rather than necessarily a fun place to be because it’s all in the same computer portal,” he said. To balance it, Rowan decided to extend his summer internship into the fall, ensuring a balance between the internship he knows he enjoys and the classes he worries he won’t.
Despite taking five classes this quarter, three of which are asynchronous, Perry has struck a balance between her classes, her extracurriculars and her fall fellowship. Beyond her coursework, Perry said she only joined one extracurricular, so the rest of her time can be spent on her fellowship.
Regardless of the increased workload that a fall internship brings, Malin says hers provides her something that her remote classes just can’t.
“Something I’ve learned is that we all need to find things that genuinely make us happy and drive us, and for me, that’s my work,” she said. “I think that was the main reason why I needed this [internship] — to just continue feeling that joy that I felt over the summer.”