With job and internship cancellations, students have to adjust summer plans

Some students will still pursue their chosen opportunities by working remotely

Ann Douglas Lott, ‘22, is working on her photography business in her free time this summer. Photo courtesy of Lott.

Ann Douglas Lott, ‘22, is working on her photography business in her free time this summer. Photo courtesy of Lott.

Grace Mamon

With one week of the academic year left, many Washington and Lee students are staring into a summer that looks drastically different than expected.

Summer internships, programs and job offers have been cancelled or modified nationwide due to the global pandemic and social distancing responses to COVID-19.

Deepthi Thumuluri, ‘20, was planning to teach two summer courses on neuroscience at Johns-Hopkins in Baltimore for high schoolers.

“As a neuro major and someone who is potentially interested in teaching as a career, it seemed like a really great way to gain experience without having to make a decision about anything quite yet,” Thumuluri said. “I was really excited for it.”

She said that she found out a couple of weeks ago that only “essential” courses would be moved online at Johns-Hopkins.

Thumuluri said that her courses were deemed non-essential, though her preparation for the classes will still be available to students.

“[Students] had access to the lectures that I made and the activities that I made, but there were no assignments,” she said. “They’re not in the program anymore, which was unfortunate for them I think too because it’s one thing for us to do online classes, but it’s totally different teaching much younger kids online.”

Thumuluri said she will be attending graduate school at Wake Forest University, so her situation is different than other seniors.

“It’s really comforting that I’m going back to school in the fall,” Thumuluri said. “It’s not that I’m using a summer internship to get a job. So I think it didn’t really phase me that it got cancelled… it’s a cool opportunity that I’m sad to have missed, but it’s not the end of the world.”

Until she begins school again in the fall, Thumuluri said she may work at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, where she worked throughout high school, if it opens for the summer.

Thumuluri isn’t the only student who had to quickly adjust her summer plans. Cate O’Kelley, ‘22, had been accepted to the London Internship Program before winter term. The 8-week program combines class instruction with an internship in London that caters to the students’ professional interests.

O’Kelley said she didn’t waste any time reaching out to two of her mentors, Entrepreneurship and Leadership Professor Jeffrey Shay and Banking and Finance Professor Scott Hoover, about alternative summer opportunities.

“My professors were so sympathetic to the situation and they were really helpful in brainstorming ideas for how to use my summer constructively,” she said. “As soon as I heard we wouldn’t be traveling to London this summer, that’s when I reached out to other people that I trusted.”

In addition to suggestions from her professors, O’Kelley said she brainstormed on her own for peace of mind.

“Some of those were silly like “learn to cook this summer,” you know, stuff to just settle my mind and tell myself that no matter what, I’m going to do something,” she said.

O’Kelley said she ended up enrolling in a data analytics certificate program through Cornell University, which she believes will help her no matter what field she ends up in.

Although the London Internship Program may invite admitted students again next summer, O’Kelley said she is unsure if she will participate.

“While it’s an amazing opportunity, I don’t really know what the future holds for me. … I’m still looking into different career paths and I think I might need to try to get an internship in a specific industry,” she said. “Traveling is still definitely something I want to pursue. … I’ll just have to see when the time comes.”

Ann Douglas Lott, ‘22, also had to get creative: by literally reorienting her summer focus.

Lott said she originally looked for an internship for her strategic communications major and opportunities in Birmingham, her hometown, but decided to turn to a favorite pastime instead.

“I’ve been doing this photography thing since my junior year of high school,” Lott said. “I knew that it was a way I could still make money in Birmingham.”

Lott said she revamped her photography website when she got home, updating it with some of her more recent work. Her website allows Birmingham residents to hire her for photo shoots and has provided a constructive outlet for her free time.

“As W&L students, you know, I feel like we can’t just sit there,” Lott said. “We have to have something to keep us occupied and keep us motivated.”

Some students were fortunate enough to keep their original internships, even if remotely. Annie Echols, ‘21, is continuing an internship that she began in-person as part of a study abroad program, dealing with a large time zone difference and missing the camaraderie of the office.

Part of Echols’s study abroad program for winter semester included an internship component with a start-up business in Singapore called Privé Technologies. She was called home two weeks in to her seven week internship.

Echols said Privé Technologies is conducting a remote internship for the first time so that she can still receive her internship credit.

“There’s a 12-hour time difference, so I’m pretty much working until 1 a.m. every night, sometimes later,” she said. “When I have international calls amongst all the offices, those are at like 2 a.m. because that’s 2 p.m. in Singapore and 8 a.m. in Luxembourg, so that’s a challenge.”

Echols said she also misses the office culture that she was able to participate in for two weeks. But there are a few upsides, like a more flexible work schedule, which allows Echols to also focus on her spring term class.

“They’ve been really understanding of my hours,” she said. “So I would say that’s probably a plus.”

While disappointment is a common feeling among these students, it seems to be overshadowed by a willingness to adapt and adjust.

“I think it’s kind of bittersweet to end your senior year this way,” Thumuluri said. “That being said, I don’t see how in good faith we could’ve stayed on campus. … I was bummed out at first but I also think I understood very reasonably that there weren’t options. This was the option.”

O’Kelly agreed.

“I knew that there was nothing I could do about this situation,” she said. “All I can do is control the factors that I can control.”