During The Pandemic, Students Are Swapping Summer Fun For Summer Classes

The pandemic has upended summer plans for college students, from internships to travel to jobs. Instead, many turned to summer school.

Joe
Butler University student Joe Graziano says he feels lucky his internship at Aon wasn't canceled this summer. Instead of going into the office he is working remotely from his home in Indiana. Courtesy of Joe Graziano
Joe
Butler University student Joe Graziano says he feels lucky his internship at Aon wasn't canceled this summer. Instead of going into the office he is working remotely from his home in Indiana. Courtesy of Joe Graziano

During The Pandemic, Students Are Swapping Summer Fun For Summer Classes

The pandemic has upended summer plans for college students, from internships to travel to jobs. Instead, many turned to summer school.

Rice University student Casley Matthews had big plans this summer.

She was going to spend eight weeks in Argentina studying public health and working in a clinic. Then, she was heading to Israel for a traditional Birthright trip for young Jewish adults.

All of that was canceled due to the novel coronavirus, forcing her to move back in with her parents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Instead, she spent the summer taking an online calculus II class.

“It was obviously a huge bummer to have to cancel,” Matthews said.

COVID-19 has put an end to many internships, study abroad opportunities and typical fun summer plans. As colleges worry how the pandemic will affect fall enrollment, many in Illinois have seen a bump in summer enrollment compared to last year as students try to turn lemons into some kind of lemonade.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago saw summer enrollment numbers jump 25% and 27% respectively over last summer. Loyola and other local private universities also have seen an increase in summer enrollments.

Elina Callas, an incoming freshman at Loyola University Chicago, decided to get a head start and take online classes this summer to get some of her general classes out of the way.

“Especially double majoring, I knew I’d had to do a little more work,” Callas said. “Just thinking of the future: I want to study abroad and things like that, and I just want to make time.”

Interning from your living room

For those able to keep their internships, they’re now working from the comfort of their homes.

Indiana resident Joe Graziano said when the pandemic initially hit, lots of friends saw summer internships they’d secured in the fall canceled. He was worried his paid internship with the risk management company Aon would be too. He plays baseball for Butler University and dedicated previous summers to his sport. Heading into senior year, his resume was pretty thin.

“So I kind of really needed this, not going to lie,” Graziano said. “If they’d canceled this, my resume would’ve been baseball, a club — not very filling.”

Aon depends heavily on its interns. Traditionally, they hire nearly two-thirds every year permanently. They mailed laptops home for interns and integrated them into teams who are also working virtually due to the pandemic. They’ve also been assigned group projects with other interns to help improve the company internally.

Graziano said he misses the in-person interaction because it’s difficult to make a good impression remotely over a video call.

“There’s a lot you can get from small talk at the office,” he said.

Manny
“Not everyone gets this opportunity at my age,” said Manny Gonzales, who is able to continue working from home this summer at a data analytics company. He’s a student at Harold Washington College in Chicago. Courtesy of Manny Gonzales

Still, he feels lucky to be earning a paycheck this summer, as does Manny Gonzales, 19, who is studying computer science and engineering at Harold Washington College in downtown Chicago. He was involved with the group Genesys Works in high school, which helps students in underinvested communities connect with employers for job and internship opportunities.

They helped him quit an overnight job at UPS and start working at a data analytics company downtown. He’s continued working remotely throughout the pandemic, which is guaranteed income that’s also helping him build toward his career.

“Not everyone gets this opportunity at my age,” Gonzales said. “Having these big corporate companies on my resume at my age, you know. It’s a blessing.”

But even with his job, he’s being extra productive this summer. Gonzalez tacked on two summer classes so he can finish his associate degree early — and transfer to a four-year school to earn a bachelors.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.