Student Perspective: Real World Lessons During a Global Crisis

As Higher Education professionals we stress the importance of students “getting real world experiences” through internships and practicums. Pre-pandemic, when things were open and the economy was flowing, students and higher ed professionals were able to easily find opportunities that provided tangible learning outcomes. Suddenly with a shift in the system, our adaption skills as a society came to the forefront. Though, like many, we were all unprepared to deal with the stress and complexities of a global catastrophe that at one point seemed to be never ending. In part three of this four-part series, we discuss with several students the impact of internships during the pandemic, and how in some cases, having an internship during the pandemic, whether remote, hybrid, or in-person, gave students some semblance of normalcy during a dark period of our history not seen in our lifetime.

The allure of industry experience in the 3rd largest market was something that attracted Audio major and international student Gabriel Kang to Columbia College Chicago when deciding to leave his home country. With no in-person internships available for most of 2020, he decided that in order to further his abilities, he would accept an in-person internship during the spring 2021 semester, with CMPLX2010, a recording studio located not very far from Columbia College Chicago’s south loop campus. Going into it he knew that being at an in-person internship carried with it a sense of risk. As he stated, “I honestly did not know how it was going to work to do an in-person internship amid the pandemic, but I would say I had certain concerns.” In addition to the college providing an addendum that both the student and provider signed, indicating both parties would adhere to state, local, and federal COVID-19 guidance to mitigate risk, he still was unsure how safe the environment was going to be. This is, according to Gabe, the importance of internship sponsors making the environment safe leading by example. “From day one I felt that my sponsor made me feel super comfortable where he himself was very sanitary with everything in the studio. It would be a must for us to clean the equipment after every use as well as cleaning the general spaces every day. This type of behavior really helped me feel assured that I was in a safe space as well as having masks and gloves for anyone to use.”

Though in-person internships were still quite rare during the spring 2021 semester, Music Business major Jordan Ebel couldn’t wait to test his skills in an in-person environment. Originally from Wisconsin, he came to Columbia eager to get involved, and jumped at the chance for an in-person internship. “When I was first given the opportunity for this internship, I was amazed to hear that it was in-person. For some reason, I thought for sure that I would be doing a remote internship. With that being said, Slavic Livins, my internship sponsor from Chicago Audio Mastering made me feel extremely comfortable working in-person. In regard to COVID, I felt very comfortable as mask wearing and social distancing were present in the studio at all times.”

On the flipside, having a remote internship for students during the pandemic helped in many ways. The risk of COVID-19 was eliminated by attending an internship remotely, and not being reliant on transportation was also an added bonus both logistically and financially. Music Business major Kirsten Calabrese secured an internship with Wendy Starland, a singer, songwriter, music producer, and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. Though this was Kirsten’s first internship, she was able to have a realistic approach to the possible outcome before starting her foray. “I was skeptical about doing a remote internship, especially since I was feeling the stress of completing schoolwork and classes online. Any sort of online work is a big adjustment, but knowing that I would be working with platforms that are already based online eased my uncertainty, and I knew it wouldn’t be much different.” In fact, an added bonus was that she also felt that she could stand out with the work she was doing, which afforded her more one-on-one time with her supervisor. “I feel like the flexibility I had, and the ability to communicate on the spot with my internship sponsor, made me feel as though I could learn more than I would in-person.”

Whether in-person or remote, Damani Holsendolph, an Audio major who spent the spring 2021 semester interning in-person at Chicago recording studio Jungle AE, had this advice. “Just relax and be yourself. What matters the most besides being able to do good work is your personality. If people like to work with you and your able to build relationships, your set!”