remote internships

Lessons Learned from Remote Internships

We loved working with Caroline Tsui, currently a senior at Carleton College, majoring in both English and Studio Art. Caroline told us that she especially enjoyed creative writing, so last summer, we actually established two summer remote internships that related directly to her interests. The following is a wonderful essay that Caroline wrote about her remote internships.

Lessons Learned from Remote Internships by Caroline Tsui

As a senior at Carleton College double majoring in English and studio art, I especially enjoy creative writing. With the help of Boston-based InternshipConnection, I was fortunate enough to have two remote internships this past summer.

My first internship was with Young Audiences of Massachusetts (YAMA), an organization that connects artists to communities (schools, libraries, etc.) so that the artists can give enriching performances to the children of those communities. In helping YAMA out with various projects––entering their artists into an online library database, combing through videos of those artists’ performances for screenshots that might be useful for advertising, compiling testimonials––I learned that even if I didn’t feel qualified to do those things 100% “correctly”, that didn’t mean I couldn’t do them. I also learned that even though the internship was remote, that I could still take on tasks that were learning experiences for me and meaningful for the organization I was working with.

I also participated in weekly staff meetings (over Zoom, of course). Getting to know the staff members who attended was eye-opening––it provided a window into the organizational side of the art world, which I had never thought that much about before. As an aspiring creative, I’ve worried sometimes (often) about what I’ll do if I don’t “make it” as a full-time writer, graphic novelist, etc. Would I be happy “settling” for a job tangential to those professions in some way? But the people working at YAMA didn’t feel like they were settling, and many of them have creative hobbies that they engage in when they’re not at work. They care about the children in the communities they serve! They’re deeply invested in their work. They’ve shown me that it’s very much possible to exist as a creative without that being one’s entire career, and for that I am deeply grateful. And while it took a little longer to feel I was getting to know them, I did feel like I had made meaningful connections by Zoom and phone – and I was able to reach out and ask for help when I needed to, and it felt easier and easier to do that as the summer wore on and as I got to know people better.

In addition to my work with YAMA, I took on a smaller internship later in the summer with the Founder of Awayte, a pet-related start up. I’m deeply grateful for the skills I learned there by writing several articles for their newsletter each month––it taught me how to complete a small writing project by myself in advance of a given deadline (turns out researching and outlining takes at least as long as writing the actual article). It was a totally different experience from writing an essay for a college class, both because I was writing for an audience larger than just my professor, and because I was doing so for an actual purpose, to accomplish something in the real world, Again, I wondered how it would feel to take this work on remotely, but it was fine. I was nervous when I wrote my first newsletter, but that would have been the case in person or working remotely. Once I got through the first one I was able to just correspond by email or phone or Zoom, and I felt like I got the direction I needed and was able to complete my assignments.

I’m equally grateful for the opportunity this internship gave me to meet the founder of this start up. Not only was she a very sweet person who really cared about her pets (and pets in general), she also reminded me a bit of myself, in that she was very much not Type A. I’d always assumed that naturally organized people were the only ones who could/should start their own business, and therefore that that entire career path was out for me. But now that I’ve met her, it’s started to feel like a possibility. I also feel that watching her process has given me a better sense of what that path would be like––or at least of some of the specific requirements to get a business off the ground (working weekends, making a website, starting a newsletter, etc.).

I’m pretty sure nobody reading this will argue with me when I say that 2020 was a weird year. The summer of 2020 was a weird summer. It was not the summer that I was expecting or planning to have––but it was still a good summer. In prior summers, I’ve worked retail or worked in various summer camps, and these were my first experiences in a more professional environment, and I felt that I was able to learn quite a bit, even working remotely.

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