Meet the #CofCCOMM Orientation Interns!
Do you remember when you started at the College of Charleston? Did you have friendly faces guiding through orientation and helping you register for classes? Well, imagine having that entire experience upended with a global pandemic (thanks, coronavirus), with no other choice than to complete orientation virtually. Say what?! This is exactly what happened at the College of Charleston this summer. Keep reading, and you will (virtually) meet some of the student Orientation Interns that not only assisted in making this possible, but directly contributed to making the virtual experience flourish for both incoming students and their families.
One of the first tasks was to create a ‘business’ Instagram account for their Orientation Intern role. These accounts (listed in the photo captions above) functioned as an easy way for incoming students to chat with their orientation leaders on social media, and also to direct message (DM) any questions privately. Each intern periodically posted helpful graphics, which were specifically designed to guide new students through the pressure of transitioning into college (or transferring) and to help draw their attention to important campus information and deadlines. These posts were often creatively delivered with quirky captions, images, animations, music, or videos. Due to the great work of the 26-member crew of Orientation Interns, along with the Orientation staff and faculty members across campus, the College can say that it successfully migrated its previous format of 10 two-day in-person summer orientation sessions to 21 virtual orientation sessions (yes, you read that right). Wow. Way to go, Orientation Interns!
COMM majors Laurie, Emily, Zelda, Ava, and Recaree (pictured above) answered a few questions on what this internship experience was like for them. Check out their answers below, and see what advice they have for students seeking internships during a pandemic.
Completing the CofC Orientation Internship Experience During a Pandemic
Organization: New Student Programs, College of Charleston (NSP) | CofC Orientation
Internship Title: Orientation Intern Leader, or Customer Service Representative
Location: Hybrid – Remote, on-campus and socially distanced, or a combination of the two. (office based in Charleston, SC)
Hours Per Week: 40 hours
Academic Credit? No
What did you do for your internship?
- Laurie: This summer, my jobs were related to assisting the Academic Advisors in the AAPC with the Advising Sessions and the two Registration Sessions with students. I got more time to master my Zoom skills, as well as dabble in the world of Canva and making graphics! I enjoyed being able to create a social media presence and upkeep an official CofC account as well. I feel like that has been a helpful platform for incoming students to ask questions on and gain more information about Orientation and the College happenings. Overall, I enjoyed being able to expound upon both my communication and leadership skills during this second summer at the internship, by becoming more social media and tech savvy.
- Emily: Assisted with new student and family orientation for over 3,000 students and 2,800 family members in twenty-one virtual sessions. Assisted academic advisors with teaching new students about course selection, class registration and academic planning. I also worked on social media graphics for interns to share on our CofC social media (mine is @emilycofc). I also put together a thank you video for our students.
- Zelda: We work with incoming students and their families to welcome them to the College. We also help plan the virtual events that Orientation is holding this summer. As interns, we work closely with advisors from the Academic Advising and Planning Center to help students create their schedule for their first semester.
- Ava: I work the front desk, so I send emails and answer the phones. I help with any administrative projects and communication with new students and families. I really just help run the office under the assistant director. At the front desk we help troubleshoot if issues occur with orientation sessions and work in the orientation databases. We also deal with all the mailings that are sent out to new students and their families.
- Recaree: Student panels, parent panels, assisting in registration, social media tasks, giving presentations to students, conducting presentations, and organizing events for students.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
- Laurie: Helping students and families feel as “at home” and welcomed to the College as I did when I first came here! I love getting to connect and interact with the students, and learn what people have in common and where they may differ.
- Emily: Getting to interact with incoming students and share my love for the college with them.
- Zelda: Getting to connect with the incoming class as well as having the opportunity to connect with current students who are motivated and like-minded. Nothing made my days more than when a student was genuinely excited about the activities or when a student loved the schedule we helped them create. Sharing my love of CofC is something I’d do anyways, so why not get paid to do it?
- Ava: Being able to help answer questions for students and their families. It is really rewarding since we have orientation online to be able to talk to them over the phone and via email. We are able to help them with most of the questions they have. Many times, they are nervous or worried about the semester and what it will look like, but after we talk on the phone they are reassured and happier.
- Recaree: Meeting incoming students and helping them have a smooth transition.
What was it like being remote?
- Laurie: We held virtual Zooms with students/families, but interns were able to be on campus, masked and socially distanced, working in classrooms. The flexibility of our work hours and location (i.e. we were given the option to do the internship remotely , come to campus to work, or decide on a day-to-day basis) made the overall experience less stressful. This was so helpful considering the circumstances during these times, and I am thankful my supervisors took everyone’s needs and wishes into consideration! To work, I definitely needed a strong WiFi connection, charged laptop and cellphone, and a quiet, distraction-free working space. Zoom is our main platform we use to reach the students, but, I also participated in several Family Panels on the Microsoft Teams software. Besides being well-trained in these two areas, I would also say the entire Google Suite system, Canva, social medias like Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn, and basic photo-editing skills definitely need to be utilized during this internship.
- Emily: I chose to complete my internship remotely, and it has been amazing. Since orientation was completely online this summer, it was very easy to be involved with the team remotely. The pros were that I had my own personal space, saved on gas and housing, and had a lot of freedom to learn what environment I work best in. The cons were feeling disconnected from the team but my staff and team at NSP sent me mail, joined me on zoom, and went out of their way to make sure that our “virtual team” felt included. I used my laptop, Wifi, a clipboard/notepad, the New Student Folder for reference, and a copy of The College Reads! book, The Line Becomes a River.
- Zelda: We completed training remotely and some of our team also completed their internship entirely virtually, however I completed mine in person during the orientation sessions. When I worked from home, a strong internet connection was needed to work on Zoom. Without the strong internet, the calls often became laggy and hard to comprehend.
- Recaree: Even though at many times I wished I could be with my colleagues, I enjoyed working remotely. The pro was being able to still spend time with my family as I work. Tools needed [to work] were a laptop, web camera, strong internet, and good taste of music (in order to get the students pumped in the morning).
Was it hard to find a summer internship?
- Laurie: Since I did it last summer, I was fortunate enough to have a returning position as a Veteran Intern. I am very grateful to be able to have had an internship this summer that still ran as planned, because I have friends that had planned on interning but their program was cancelled due to the circumstances.
- Emily: Luckily, I applied for this internship in January and was offered a position in early March before COVID.
- Zelda: No, I think I felt such ease finding this internship because of the welcoming staff at New Student Programs as well as by applying early. I applied for this summer internship back in January, so I think preparation was key in finding one.
- Ava: No just because I have had this internship for the past two summers, but it is a long interview process when you are a new intern.
- Recaree: It was not hard to find this internship because prior to COVID-19 it was advertised a lot on campus.
Did you experience difficulties completing the internship during COVID-19?
- Laurie: The biggest difficulty would definitely be learning to be more flexible and sort of ‘roll with the punches’ as they tend to come. I am a huge planner, so the nature of COVID-19 tends to come with one surprise and change after another, which has only taught myself and my coworkers to become more adaptable. While I am thankful for the new experience this summer, I would be lying if I said it has been easy adjusting to the changes COVID-19 has thrown our way.
- Emily: The biggest challenge was adapting orientation into a virtual environment. When we started our first day of training for the internship we were not sure what to expect, how our format was going to look but we took every day as a learning experience and made changes when we realized what worked and what didn’t.
- Zelda: Orientation had to be re-planned completely this year for the virtual setting. In the beginning, things were pretty difficult because not only were first-year interns having to learn everything, but all the returning interns and staff also had to learn a lot of new things in order to successfully have orientation online. Despite having difficulties, it has been quite interesting to help plan a new platform for what has been an incoming college student tradition for years. I think having a college and staff dedicated to keeping one another safe also made the internship much easier to complete with COVID-19, as we could focus on completing our tasks rather than having to worry as much about our safety because of the social distancing and preventative measures everyone partook in.
- Ava: There have definitely been challenges since we can’t have the new students and their families on campus. When students have technical problems, it can be hard to help from hundreds of miles away. Overall, we have really had a smooth summer. A lot of the concerns we thought we would have we didn’t.
What is your advice to COMM students looking to take a Fall 2020 internship during a pandemic?
- Laurie: I had a COMM internship in Spring 2020, which got moved to remote when we were first sent home in March due to the pandemic, and now just completed my remote Summer 2020 internship. While these both were mostly remote/virtual work, the experiences were extremely positive, and I learned so much from both positions. Internships are opportunities for students to determine if a field is a good fit for them in the future, and they also gain awesome experience for their resumes! I’d say it’s a fun time all-around, getting to meet new people and make memories while doing so.
- Emily: If you’re looking for an internship during COVID-19, make sure that you are prepared for sudden changes and are willing to put in extra time and effort to get the most out of your experience. The biggest personal takeaway I had this summer during my internship was to be adaptable. Things were constantly changing each day and I had to make sure I had a positive attitude and was willing to adjust to the needs of the team.
- Zelda: Keep an open mind when applying. COVID-19 is changing our lives and work spaces constantly, so be prepared for changes in what you originally intended from the internship and adapt to help make those changes run more smoothly. Some days it’s very hard to keep a positive outlook when our entire lives have changed so quickly and continue to change, but keeping that positive outlook is truly key in not only a work environment, but in our lives in general. Taking an internship is an amazing opportunity at CofC because it can help you determine what you want to do post-college and also help you get experience. My advice to any COMM student looking for an internship at the College is to research your options and find one that will engage and interest you, as you will be more passionate and productive with your work.
- Ava: I would say to just take in the online components because this is the future. I think remote work will be incorporated more and more after the pandemic so the skills learned now will make us more qualified post-college. I also think internships are a great way to see what you like and what you don’t like. I think you not only get great experience, but also connections and resources from internships.
- Recaree: Definitely look at the different tasks that are required for the job. If you do have to work remotely, look to see if you are even able to before the job begins. COMM majors/minors should take an internship while at CofC because it will give them more experience. An internship will give you an idea of how the workforce and the field you want to enter will be. My advice would be to use all of your resources at the College. Always try new things – you usually miss the shots you don’t take. So it’s important that you find and take opportunities you think you would be interested in.