Internships in the COVID era: Virtual internship follow up
In May, we talked with students and companies about what they were expecting for “Internships in the COVID era.“ We recently caught up with the students conducting virtual internships to hear about their experiences during a summer that was supposed to be like no other.
Hassan Dbouk and Huozhi Zhou both had internships that originally were to take them out of the state, but ended up completing them virtually from Urbana-Champaign. While they were both disappointed, they were also very thankful their internships were still happening.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to still have the internship remotely while others were canceled or postponed,” said Dbouk, who interned with Texas Instruments (TI). “I appreciate TI gave me that option and tried their best to make the experience as smooth as possible.”
Many companies and internship coordinators had to transition to virtual internships at the last minute, and while both Dbouk and Zhou said their experiences were positive, there were definite downsides to not being in the same office as their coworkers. Not being able to have casual chats, discuss projects around a white board, and have regular face-to-face communication were all limitations they faced in the new virtual world.
“The biggest downside was the elimination of networking, and it seemed like efficiency decreased,” said Zhou, who interned with Bell Labs. “There was the benefit of a more flexible schedule. I could work whenever I want and didn’t have to stick to office hours like I did in a previous internship.”
Even with the challenges they faced, both students found value in their experiences this summer. Dbouk worked on multiple projects developing hardware solutions for artificial intelligence low-power applications and Zhou designed an algorithm to improve service providers’ ability to efficiently and fairly set the price of a product. Both graduate students in electrical and computer engineering, they plan on carrying the skills and ideas they learned this summer forward in their studies.
“The experience I had was very valuable to me and my research in general,” said Dbouk. “I’m looking forward to applying the techniques I learned, if not this fall in school, then definitely in the years to come.”