In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, experiential learning opportunities for students are taking on a new form.
The inability to make it into the office is allowing students to work remotely for companies they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to. Well-known companies such as Simon & Schuester, Google, IBM and many more are offering students around the country remote experiences from the comfort and safety of their own home.
University of Rhode Island senior textile merchandising and design student Erin Hassmann experienced the benefits of distance learning through an internship with Rocky Clark Clothing. Hassmann had originally planned on living in New York City through the summer of 2020 in hopes of landing an internship in the fashion industry, but when the pandemic hit, she didn’t let it stop her from continuing to apply.
“I am the first-ever intern at Rocky Clark, and I really love it,” Hassmann said. “Since I’m the first one, I really get to choose what I do and help out with. I do a lot of research for upcoming products, and sketches for designs. I get to give my opinions on other people’s designs too based on the education that I’m getting at the same time.”
Hassmann said that she was grateful to experience a real-world job in fashion and to continue to build her resume, especially during the pandemic.
“It means a lot to be interning at Rocky Clark because I’m graduating this year, and this is really the only internship experience I have ever had in the industry,” Hassmann said. “It’s nice to have it both on my resume and as a character-building experience. To be able to make connections and do all of this while I’m still in college is a lot more valuable than just taking what I can get to put on my resume. This is something I really enjoy.”
According to Hassmann, the convenience of remote interning experiences is that some students don’t have as many opportunities to find them based on their location. So, for students in areas where their industry may not be present, being able to work in their field is game-changing.
“I think remote internships can be either good or bad,” Hassmann said. “I know a lot of students aren’t getting the same opportunities they would have had. But for a lot it’s better that things are online, this isn’t an opportunity that I would have had before. There are very few places in Rhode Island that are in the fashion industry. It’s really that they are very area-based, and if you don’t live in that area, you’re at a loss.”
University of Rhode Island journalism and writing and rhetoric student Theresa Brown had a similar experience in reporting remotely for Rhode Island Monthly magazine. According to Brown, while learning to work remotely was a challenge, it was an opportunity to gain skills not only in her chosen field but also in organization and communication.
“Learning to do things like interview and fact-check, that I usually do in-person, over Zoom is definitely difficult,” Brown said. “However, it’s been so beneficial having to be so flexible and really adjust to the conditions we’re in.”
As of the end of June, over 40 percent of Americans were working from home. Brown said that since this seems to be the new normal, she is glad she got to learn to work remotely before graduating.
“It’s disappointing how much things have changed, and that we can’t go into our workplaces anymore, but I’m grateful that I was able to experience what so many people are,” Brown said. “It’s not the most ideal situation, but having a remote internship will prepare me for the possibility of working from home when I graduate.”