Taking into account everything that our world has been through this year, it’s been one of the strangest summers of our lives. It seems like everything has been flipped upside down, with plans being canceled left and right and terrible news headlines all over the place. I know that I speak for many when I say that we did not have any idea what summer 2020 would bring.
This summer, I was lucky enough to discover a new type of internship experience after most of our country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though I was not able to participate in my internship placement at the University of Pennsylvania from a real Philadelphia office, I was still able to make the most of my Intern Philly experience. As a virtual intern in the summer of 2020, I’ve experienced firsthand the transformation of in-person meetings to Zoom calls, became an expert at creating the perfect, distraction proof working-from-home set-up, and have learned to appreciate my quick commute time of pressing the power button on my laptop rather than taking a bus.
There were also many aspects of this program that helped me to learn about the unique culture of the workplace, which was one of my main goals going into the program. Of course, our internships were done virtually, so I did not have the experience of going into an office every day. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn valuable skills. This internship was unique in the way that it was the first opportunity that I’ve really had to put my education to use in a job setting, but at the same time, it was a job setting that was able to teach me new concepts that I had never learned in school. It taught me a great deal about people skills -how to complete professional research for someone else, how to talk on the phone, how to send professional emails, how to communicate in meetings, punctuality/time management skills, how to deal with stressful situations and keeping a positive attitude when faced with a challenge.
I was able to use lessons that I have learned in school, such as researching, critical thinking, and writing skills, and combine these with new teachings that I was learning in the required seminar class that we took along with our placements such as workplace etiquette and dynamics, critique, language, power and privilege, and more. Through all of these new skills, plus the new experience that I was getting from working closely with my boss in the actual fields of Medical Sociology and Biomedical Informatics, all while learning from my own mistakes and stepping outside of my comfort zone, I persevered and successfully completed my first real internship. I’ve also learned that just having a genuine interest in something, no matter what your skill level or experience in that field is, really goes a long way.
My experience with Intern Philly has given me an opportunity to learn and grow in a professional environment by pushing me to leave my comfort zone in many more ways than I thought possible. I’m especially grateful for this experience and I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try.