Two weeks ago, I felt overwhelming relief. As the country seemed to be descending into chaos, I found momentary hope for the future: I received two internship offers in Washington, D.C.
After weeks of fretting over applications and hundreds of visits to the LinkedIn Jobs page, I experienced a moment of relief. Less than two days after I accepted my offer, I received a notification from the organization that the hiring of my position was postponed with no mention of when it would resume. I assumed it was an error and that I had accidentally received an email from HR that the position was simply filled, but before I could even post an update to LinkedIn, my short-lived plans for the summer disappeared because of COVID-19.
Under normal circumstances, I would be upset by this. However, as all current college students face the terrifying void of the economy during the middle of a health crisis, finding a summer internship becomes more complicated.
The applicant pool is more concentrated now that an estimated one million internships will be canceled this summer due to COVID-19. In sectors like public service, unpaid internships are the industry norm. In line with the Office of the Provost’s announcement that university-sponsored travel is prohibited until further notice, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies canceled summer funding. I have to consider that not only would there be no university funding for my ambitions, but I also no longer have the option to apply for a service job to make a living wage should an unpaid opportunity arise. Since March 1, restaurant closures because of COVID-19 slashed more than three million jobs in the industry. Of course, there’s the federal stimulus package that could help me cover a month of rent for an unpaid position–– if only I hadn’t been claimed as a dependent on my parents’ tax returns, which will keep me from getting money.
Seeking out certainty and solutions from trusted news sites or on social media feels like an echo chamber of doubt and doom. When I accepted my summer internship offer, I hardly had time to sink into my contentment or build a summer budget with my would-be income, but it was my little solace as the global economy and daily life rapidly declined. Headlines like “Why the Global Recession Could Last a Long Time” and “How High Will Unemployment in America Go?” give me limited hope that, by the time I graduate next year, the economy will be back to where it was less than a month ago.
Well-intentioned consolations that many others are in the same situation as me offer little comfort. We’re all in the same boat, but is it any more reassuring when that boat is sinking fast?
My future felt like it was unrooted, but all of us are affected to some degree right nowー especially students whose on-campus jobs were put on hold or depend on university housing and resources to live in a safe environment. While my current life continues, I’m uneasy about the future. For now, I’m holding onto hope that something will turn out for the best because that’s all I can do.