Internship Experience

Emma Cost graduated from USM in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Planning and Policy, while minoring in Economics. She interned at the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) and they hired her full-time upon graduation.

What was the most rewarding element(s) of your internship over the 2019-20 academic year?

“One of the most rewarding elements of my internship was applying all my knowledge/skills I had learned from my classes over the years to my work at GPCOG. My professors did an excellent job of preparing us for the ‘real-world’. Another rewarding element of my internship was being asked to stay at GPCOG. At one point, I was juggling my internship, full-time class schedule, soccer, and my other part-time job. However, the long nights of staying up late to complete an assignment, working on the bus as we traveled to our away games, and putting in maximum hours and effort at my internship paid off.”

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your internship?

“My workplace announced we were going remote the same day USM did. I was feeling very overwhelmed (as did most). However, most of my work I was doing at GPCOG was on the computer anyway, so it wasn’t a huge shift in responsibilities at work.”

Did your overall experience shift due to COVID-19?

“There were benefits and challenges of completing my internship remotely. My workplace tried to make it feel like nothing had changed. We all signed onto Zoom at 9am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to share news, stories, and individual priorities for a half-hour. I still felt connected to my coworkers although we weren’t in the office. It really humanized my supervisors for me as their kids would occasionally run in to say, ‘hi’. My direct team uses Microsoft Teams, which is like the AIM of the professional world. This made quick conversations possible, as if you ran into their office to ask a quick question or bumped into them in the break room. After this spring, I felt much more comfortable and closer to my team than I did last fall. The challenge is working from home. I miss going to a different place to be productive, rather than doing work at my desk in my room for hours at a time. It’s harder to stay focused which is why it’s important to make a to-do list, set goals, and follow a strict schedule.”

What message or advice would you offer an employer that is considering an internship in the current business environment?

“I would highly suggest employers hire interns this year. These students are eager to learn and work hard to prove themselves. With the economy in rough shape, you will be providing these students a head start into their field so they have a better chance of landing a job once it’s over. Although it’s unusual times to hire an intern, they will learn quickly and adapt to remote work. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”