Life as a remote intern during a pandemic

When you first hear the word "internship," what do you think of?

Getting to go into an office and working a couple of days a week? Shadowing employees in the career of what you think you want to do? Being able to see what it’s like to work in the "real world" in a career of your choice?

Well, what defines the "real world" now anyway?

Typing for eight hours a day from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., five days a week, including weekends, is not exactly how I thought I would be working at my summer internship. However, I really can't complain because three months ago, I did not even think I would have a summer internship. Because of COVID-19 student interns around the country, including myself, have had our internships either canceled or turned completely remote.

I first interned with WOFL FOX 35 News last summer after being accepted into the Emma Bowen Foundation, a foundation that helps place minority students across the country in multi-year internships with media, public relations, and technology companies. 

As a digital intern at FOX 35, my day-to-day tasks consisted of sitting in on meetings, reading and writing stories for the station’s website, and occasionally clipping videos from the station’s newscasts.

Having to do my internship remotely posed a few challenges. Personally, I am a physical learner who learns best when I can have an in-person interaction with whoever is teaching me. While being online I can visually see what I am learning, it is still hard to make a full comprehensive connection.

The biggest challenge I've had while working remotely is shifting from task to task online. Since meetings, events, and many day-to-day activities have turned to be online, it can be difficult to see a separation of tasks. Then, when all these tasks get morphed together, it can be a challenge to focus or concentrate on one thing at a time.

Toward, the end of my time with FOX 35 I was able to connect with another Emma Bowen fellow in Los Angeles. Hyeji Suh, is a group content team intern for FOX Television Stations in Los Angeles. We were able to talk about our shared experience being remote interns, and I was able to interview her on how her summer has been working from home.

How has your internship been different being online this year? 

"Aside from the obvious, with the pandemic and everything going remote, my intern experience this year has been different in the sense that I’m a lot more familiar with the work that’s required of me. Last year, I was fortunate to have had in-person training and established really good connections with my coworkers that carried over to this year. So, for my second year interning with Fox Television Stations, the learning curve hasn’t been super steep."

What advice would you give to a new remote intern? 

"I would say to make sure you have a good work-life balance. I think sometimes it’s easy to kind of fall into one and neglect the other, which doesn’t benefit you in any way. It’s also really important that you create a sense of excitement for yourself. So whether you’re going to work at a new location in your house or you’re wearing a new shirt  —  or even creating little milestones for yourself throughout the day — having those small things to get excited about can definitely improve your experience working from home."

What is something you wish you could change about your internship?

"I wish I got to network with my team more! I think since we’re all busy working in the office with very little collective breaks, it’s been hard to get to know my coworkers’ career paths or grab lunch with them to talk about that. Part of that, though, is also due to my hesitance in asking them for the space to chat about that. Especially my first year last summer, I was definitely too shy and didn’t get the chance to go to lunch with them."

Talk about your most difficult challenge this summer being online and how you overcame it?

"The most difficult challenge for me has been figuring out how to manage my time. As a rising senior who has to think about her future plans and being an intern reporter for a large media company, I don’t have a lot of time after I get off work to do everything that I want to do. So, I try to fit in moments of productivity in between assignments and maximizing the time I have throughout the day. That’s a plus, I think, of working remotely. Last summer, I had to drive for about three to three and a half hours a day, and so by the time I got home from work, I couldn’t find the energy to do other things I had in mind."

Hyeji really showed enthusiasm for her internship when I spoke to her. She talked about ways she tried to find excitement in each day by simply just changing up her routine, like working in a different area of her house. I can definitely agree that changing things up in your day and work environment is what will keep you sane when you're working from home.

She also mentioned how one of her favorite parts of her internship was how her team always treated her as an equal. In my time at FOX 35, I interacted with many people from different departments at the station. I, too, noticed that everyone was welcoming and friendly, always reassuring me that if I had any questions to just ask.

Despite the lack of physical learning and in-person instruction, being a remote intern has had some major perks. For example, I have been very fortunate with the department I've worked with. Everyone I interacted with has always been very helpful in trying to teach me new things. They always take the time to make sure I understand why things are done a certain way and have made me feel a part of the team.

Working with the digital content team has made me realize how important and valuable time is. Writing the news is a very time-sensitive task, but it also has to be executed properly.

Interning at FOX 35 has honestly been an incredible and one-of-a-kind experience. In a weird way, I am happy that I had to do my internship virtually for what it taught me and helped me accomplish. The amount of knowledge I have gained by just listening and watching how the team interacts and works together to keep the station running is irreplaceable.

Interning remotely has definitely been a challenge for me, but knowing I am not doing it alone — and knowing I have a whole team that supports each other — has made the remote internship experience enjoyable and educational.