Finding Virtual Internships and Online Summer Schools in 2021

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Student Lifehacks
a woman applying for virtual internships in 2020

Our summers used to be all about grasping opportunities and gaining relevant experiences in internships, part-time jobs, or summer schools. But then the coronavirus crisis came. Many secured internships were reworked, companies have frozen their hiring plans, and summer schools were canceled—all this brought our summer plans to ruin. With the current splash of unemployment, it is even harder for recent grads to land an internship or your first full-time job. 

However, there are still some possibilities (thanks to the digital revolution)—these are remote internships, virtual summer schools, and online courses in 2021. Even if you struggle to land an online internship, there are more than ever options for self-study this summer. Although career prospects in some spheres don’t look encouraging right now, you should still think strategically about investing your free time this summer.

I. How to Land a Remote Internship

As easy as it gets—you have to start looking for a place. Despite the crisis, there are still companies in need of part-time or full-time interns working remotely, and most of the positions are paid (we will provide the links later). You can look for an internship in your city or state. Still, since most jobs are virtual, you can try and apply across the states or even abroad.

The general rules are similar to the ones described in these guidelines about looking for internships. You should search for a summer internship within the field of your specialization or any other sphere that inspires you and would be relevant to your career. Make sure that you fit the profile of the company and that you agree with its fundamental values. Afterward, prepare your CV in a way that strengthens the qualities sought by a prospective employer. You should also carefully write a cover letter, explaining why the company will benefit from your work and apply—don’t waste the moment. The best application is the submitted one. Below we list rather well-known resources where you can find a bunch of internship postings (search for “summer intern” and maybe don’t limit yourself to the US). But before you turn to LinkedIn, there are two essential strategies that we often forget: use your college network and reach out to companies yourself.

Turn to Academic Networking and College Career Centers

Don’t underestimate the advice and resources your college career center has to offer. You can ask them for some general tips but also come with a more specific question. For example, the career center can connect you with any alumni in your desired sphere or even in a particular company. A good referral might be a decisive factor in your application. Even if it doesn’t work out this time, this contact person remains within your network and might help you to land a job next time, when the situation normalizes. Moreover, some employers inform college career centers about their internship programs. Therefore your college can have the most relevant information and calls for interns, and you don’t even need to turn to a third party. Equally, reach out to professors or guest lecturers who are also present in the corporate or governmental spheres where you’d like to get some work experience. 

Reach Out Yourself

If there is a small local business or an initiative you admire and wish to help, they might be able to accommodate you as an intern for a few months. Maybe you will get a micro-internship for two weeks, but this experience is still valuable and satisfying. It might be a volunteering position, but in any case, it’s better to spend your summer gaining useful skills critical for your future career. Again, explain how you can help this organization and how your unique skills and experiences are beneficial for the business, attach your CV—and here you go! Since it’s not an official application, the inquiry can be short and concise (no need to pour out all your certificates), but make it unique and catchy!

Check Companies’ Websites Directly

Bigger companies did not cancel their big summer internship programs in 2021 but moved them online. If you’re interested in working with tech or software giants or big consulting companies, check their websites directly for more specific information. For example, Liberty Mutual has a special page dedicated to undergrad careers where you can explore available options. While you still might find their calls on some job aggregator, the company’s website is usually more explicit. Again, if you don’t see anything suitable, reach out to their HR directly, offering your help and engagement. Maybe you can land a micro-internship or take part in one of the projects. Any experience you can get is valuable!

Visit Virtual Career Fairs

Another option might be to visit some virtual career fairs. It sounds old-fashioned, but it is one of the best ways to give your CV to potential employers. Now it’s even more convenient to take part in these events. Careereco collects some of the announcements for job fairs, but you can also look for special events in your sphere.

Other Popular Websites That Are Worth Regularly Checking Are:

  • Handshake. The platform is tuned specifically for students. Now there is even a page dedicated to internships offered during the coronavirus crisis.
  • Indeed
  • Intern from Home. An excellent platform for looking for virtual internships in any area. Though their offer might be limited as compared to bigger job platforms. 
  • LinkedIn
  • WayUp. A company that cares about college students and recent grads and actually helps them to land their first dream job. Give it a shot!
  • ZipRecruiter
  • Parker Dewey. Especially suitable for students looking for micro-internships.
  • Glassdoor
  • Vault
  • Intern Abroad HQ. This company offers an efficient, helpful match-making process between a prospective intern and an employer abroad. However, here you are, paying to become a remote intern, not vice versa! Still check it out, they also offer scholarships for those on remote internships.
home office is a benefit of virtual internships
Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

II. Extra Tips for applying for Remote Internships

If you decide to take time off this summer and relax—it is equally fine! No need to feel guilty or unambitious: in these times, your mental comfort is of the highest value. Students who are volunteering this summer are our superheroes! If you want to gain professional or academic experiences this summer, you should either land virtual internships (even in foreign companies) or invest in self-education. Both options will allow you to gain some knowledge of the industry where you can potentially seek subsequent employment, earn money, get new professional acquaintances, and learn many new skills and information. 

Although there are some specificities when applying for remote internships, the general guidelines discussed in this article prevail, so check them out first. Although you should be prepared to send many inquiry letters, take time to customize them, and don’t just send generalized emails. You might also want to relate to your experiences of remote working and task management. If you don’t have any yet—think of organizational and communication skills you have that can work towards a successful virtual internship. If you can back your skills up with certificates, reference letters, or links to the products or projects you partook in—that’s even better. 

Persevere and never lose hope. On average, you might send between 60–70 applications or query letters. Another tip is to choose wisely, but not to be too picky. Obviously, you should enter the sphere relevant to your interests and career expectations and do something that you enjoy, but don’t wait for that one perfect call for interns. If you get positive feedback about your application, invest enough time in preparing for an interview—approach it as your homework. Learn enough about the organization and your future position, learn more about your interviewer, and prepare questions you will ask during the talk.

And don’t be too negative about it: yes, working remotely comes with downsides, but it is still a great experience. These days, freelancing and remote work is becoming incredibly popular on the market, and it’s fantastic that you will already have some experience. 

taking part in an online summer school
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Even if you don’t get an internship this summer, don’t despair so easily. The financial situation is devastating, we hope you can cope. Luckily, there are other options to invest your summertime smartly that are proven to be equally beneficial for your career.

III. Online Summer Schools Abroad

My summer school in London was canceled, without a virtual substitute. And unfortunately, the same story is shared among many other students. While UCL and many other universities in the US and Europe canceled their in-person lessons for this summer, other universities are offering excellent summer programs online. There is an immense advantage of online summer schools: you don’t spend money and time on traveling, and you can take a course happening in any part of the world! It makes it also possible to combine summer school with an internship or other temporary employment. Although virtual, summer schools are happening “live”—these are not pre-recorded lectures and assignments (called MOOC). You also get a chance to meet people and maybe participate in project work with them.

You know enough about summer programs and distance learning at your own college, so here we will urge you to give a chance to summer schools happening elsewhere (many will be held in English). Some summer schools request reasonable enrolment fees, but your college might offer grants to cover this type of expense. Not to mention all the benefits of intensive learning and coaching you get over these few weeks of schooling, summer school is a rather simple way to make your CV more international and broaden your network. These are just some of the examples of European summer schools to give you a hint of what’s going on! 

Platforms for Finding Summer Programs in Europe

Do your own research with these two websites: Summer Schools in Europe and Online Studies. Google is also equally effective in learning what are the options!

The Utrecht Summer School

78 courses in various disciplines and different proficiency levels are on offer! The starting dates for the courses differ, so search for something that suits your interests and schedule, if you can afford the fee. Most of the courses you can take for credits. P.S. courses without credits are way cheaper.

Tilburg University

Although most of the courses are canceled for this year, they are offering two online courses for free.

University of Pisa

There are many courses in August–September held in digital mode, and most of the application fees are affordable. Don’t forget to contact coordinators for information about funding opportunities!

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Apply until June 15 (some quick decision-making involved)! This university offers a few 2-week distance learning courses, maybe some will be the right fit for you.

a person taking online courses during the summer
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

IV. Self-Education

It’s never a bad time to learn something, even on your own. If you don’t have enough mental strength going on applying to different positions or your field is in a severe crisis now, you can invest your time in self-education. The good thing is that we have all the available resources for that!

Free Coursera for University Students

Coursera does not require an introduction—we all enjoy access to its entertaining courses from all over the world. However, in order to get an official certificate of course completion that will be recognized by your college and by an employer, you’d need to pay. This year things are different for students and recent grads!

If you enroll in a course by July 31 and complete it by September 30, you will get an acknowledgment certificate for free! Isn’t it the best way to improve your CV? It’s also a genius move from Coursera because this way, you are committed to the chosen course and remain highly motivated. There are 3.800 courses on offer and additional certificate programs—explore!

When choosing a course, you might follow several strategies. You can pick a class or two from your major field or opt for an advanced program (especially if it’s not offered at your college, check the curriculum for the next term). Alternatively, you can pick a subject that is not among your major/minor but would enhance your chances of getting hired. Reading this article about the most trending specializations will give you an idea of what kind of soft and hard skills are in demand. Be strategic!

The most important rule is not to take more courses than you can handle: nobody has canceled household chores or paid summer jobs, or you should just take time off to fully relax if needed.

Study Textbooks on Your Own

Although we are more used to seeing textbooks in a college setting, they are also suitable for self-study! It works exceptionally well with languages but is equally successful with other subjects. At BooksRun, we offer thousands of textbooks on various topics for all levels of proficiency. Browse our categories, and maybe you will find something you’d like to deepen your knowledge in. You can buy a textbook or rent it for a certain period.

However, self-study requires commitment and thoughtful planning. After you strategically decide what kind of skills and knowledge you want to opt for, make a plan, and evaluate how much time you can devote to your self-studying. Design your own schedule and learning process: will you take a test after reading each chapter? Will you use a ‘question’ method for studying from textbooks? When and how will you take notes? Maybe you can set up a study group with your college friends to make things much more entertaining. Of course, don’t forget to combine studying from textbooks with other educational content available on YouTube.

If you wanna nail the science of self-learning, you can consult these two books before you embark on your summer schooling: On the Science of Self-Learning and Self-Driven Learning.

We hope that this overview will sparkle some ideas in your head and show you various ways of seeking internships and other relevant experiences this summer. Whether you will be lucky with a summer internship or not, remember that there are always other options not affected by the coronavirus situation. Find your passion, and enjoy your summer!

Iliana K