Hiatt Career Center

Taking On A Virtual Internship

Marissa Tortelli

Marissa Torelli ‘22
Major: politics and international & global studies
Minor: legal studies and African/African-American studies
Summer 2020 Internship: Transition H.O.P.E” (High Expectations, Opportunities, Purposeful Pathways to Success, and Encouragement) Boston, MA

This past summer, I interned for a program called, “Transition H.O.P.E” (High Expectations, Opportunities, Purposeful Pathways to Success, and Encouragement) conducted through the City of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement & Employment. Like most students in their sophomore year, I was looking for an internship opportunity that would allow me to explore a career path I truly enjoyed. I knew I wanted to go down a legal and/or government route and I was able to connect to a Brandeis professor who was teaching courses in this area.

She had introduced me to this opportunity in the spring, and because it aligned perfectly with what I wanted to do, she connected me with the hiring manager and I got the role (after a few meetings and interviews, of course).

Learning to Work Remote

Shortly after the offer, I was forced to move back home due to COVID-19. Fearful that this would inhibit the program from running in the upcoming summer, my boss and I immediately started working together to create a contingency plan in the event that we would not be able to run our program in-person. Working virtually, which I am sure most people felt this way, was difficult for me. The reason why I found this challenging is because I am an incredibly hands-on learner who thrives from in-person collaboration. However, since working virtually became the new norm for 2020, I was forced to think creatively on how to make working from home productive, and yet, rewarding. Though it took me out of my comfort zone, I learned a lot of skills related to time management, communication and adaptability. 

Another positive aspect of working remotely was I was able to decide where I wanted to work from. Though I would have typically moved back home during the summer months, I was able to stay in Waltham due to the funding I received from the World of Work (WOW) Summer Funding Program through the Hiatt Career Center. In the event I had to venture into Boston, I would be close enough that I would be able to get there. It was comforting to have that support during this time. Part of the WOW program is that you have the support of a staff member in Hiatt to check in with about the internship. This was helpful in talking about the transition to remote work and how to approach it both professionally and personally.

Addressing the Challenges

As most of us know, one of the biggest challenges in this remote world is staying engaged. The students I worked with were easily exhausted over Zoom and most had a hard time sitting in one place for a long period of time. What worked well for us, which may seem a little too obvious, were exercise breaks. Every hour or so, we would do five minutes of physical movement in order to wake ourselves up and to give the students a break.. This physical movement included jumping jacks, yoga and even pilates! Students and adults loved the opportunity to stand up from their chairs and have fun for a moment. I truly believe the success of the program was contingent on the healthy work/play balance we were able to find. I would suggest that you work this into your daily online work regime and even recommend it to your worksite.

Advice To Pass On

 My first piece of advice for doing a remote summer internship is to create a space for yourself that is just for work. A designated room, table or area where you live will be most helpful in keeping you productive. Try to stay away from using your bed as a place to get work done; you won’t. 

Second, I highly recommend setting work hours for yourself.  My biggest issue with remote work is that I often found myself working way more than I anticipated or what I had discussed with my internship site supervisor. Be sure to create a schedule and stick to it. You should also consider adding in some self-care during your break times so you won’t get carried away with sitting on a computer all day. Find what works for you and keep a healthy balance with work and life.

Overall, it will be challenging and feel a bit different but don’t let that steer you away from pursuing a summer internship opportunity. 

Learn more about the World of Work (WOW) Summer Funding Program 

Read more about Marissa’s summer experience on the WOW blog