Benefits of Virtual Internships

by | 30 Sep, 2021 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge

Virtual internships were gaining in popularity even before many offices moved online during the pandemic. The array of options might seem daunting, but they are fantastic opportunities for any student looking for work experience.

Oxford Scholastica Summer School currently runs online internships in Economics & Finance, Medicine, Law, Politics & International Relations and Psychology & Neuroscience, with many more exciting opportunities in the pipeline. Our intern testimonials provide a multitude of reasons to choose the online water cooler – both now and in the future.

We want to make sure you’re picking a programme that works for you, so we’ve outlined some of the key differences between a traditional, in-person internship and an online one.

1. Clear, concise communication

One of the biggest differences between the physical and online world is the difference in communication style. Zoom meetings, emails and chat platforms such as Slack incentivise clear and efficient communication, which is a really useful skill in most industries. By the end of your internship, you’ll be able to present your thoughts succinctly, collaborate effectively and listen sensitively to people from all over the world.

Virtual internships also have the benefit of eliminating distracting, unplanned chats that can interrupt your workflow – it’s a lot easier to put off answering an email until you’ve finished a task than it is to ignore a colleague standing or sitting right next to your desk!

That said, one Scholastica intern rightly commented that, “When physically working in the same space[, …] meetings can be rather spontaneous”. With virtual internships you can lose the benefits of casual chat, as digital conversations tend to be work-related and to the point.

How does this affect your choice of internship?

This means you should choose your internship carefully, to suit your personal work and communication style. Your goals will also influence which of these works best for you – casual networking is easier in-person, but a high volume of quality work experience could be more achievable with a virtual internship.

Different companies have different levels of supervisor interaction, too, so it’s important to find a firm that matches your preferences on that front. For example, Scholastica tries to keep an interactive workspace:

We brainstorm together in the meetings and have collaborative work. I get out of my comfort zone and communicate with people I’ve just met. As an introvert, this experience boosted my confidence and I feel more comfortable about communicating with new people.

2. Flexible working hours

A typical day varies for every internship, whether or not it’s remote. Some supervisors may expect you to be working a standard 9-to-5 day, others may check in at the same time once a day but allow you flexibility around that, and still others may prefer to communicate almost entirely over email, allowing you to complete the work at times that work best with your other commitments. The multitude of options means you’re sure to find an internship that works for you.

If you’re an international student, this is especially helpful, as you’re not constrained by what’s available in your country or timezone, without having to worry about paying for travel or accommodation.

Two students working on a presentation for a virtual internship

Unsure what a typical day could look like?

One Scholastica intern shared what her typical day looked like while on a content writing placement with us:

Working remotely means I can be more flexible. Still, I like sticking mostly to ‘traditional’ working hours, as they provide a steady rhythm and ensure that I stay productive. We begin the workday with a team meeting in the morning to discuss our plans and our progress. Then we head off to start our work. There is no need to bear in mind the time it takes to get ready and commute — all I need to do is wear a reasonable top and open my laptop!

“I usually start to research the blog title brainstormed during the meeting in the morning, take a lunch break at noon, and then begin writing in the afternoon. After I finish writing my blog, I send it to one of my peers for review. What’s nice is I can always go for a short walk when I need to refresh my mind.”

Managing your own time isn’t always easy but, as another intern mentioned, it’s a valuable learning experience: “I had to be responsible for my time, and stay focused and productive without supervision. I gained greater self-control through the process.”

Flexible work can also help make an internship more accessible, if 9-to-5 isn’t an option for you.

I had caught COVID-19 in March last year and since then I have been dealing with some long-term health problems. In that way, online internships have been great. Apart from the scheduled calls, I can structure my working hours flexibly, knowing that I might take a longer break during the day and then finish the work in the evening, which wouldn’t be possible with the rigid 9-5 working schedule.

3. Learn something new

This benefit applies to all kinds of internships, and is the main reason you should apply for programmes. Placements help you develop both soft and hard skills. The areas you develop in the process might not be quite what you expect. One post-grad with experience in academic writing and a penchant for long sentences was surprised by her work with SEO and readability checkers. She gained a valuable understanding of new writing tools and the differences between academic and commercial writing.

You’re likely to (virtually) meet other interns, and learn from them as well, just as much as you would with an in-person internship. One of our Scholastica interns said: “Although we were working remotely, everyone was very motivated. For example, the peer editing was very detailed and helpful.”

Tools like Google Docs keep track of all constructive comments for you, so there’s no danger of passing up an opportunity to improve. This can be more helpful than editorial meetings in person, where you might be expected to keep track of others’ comments on your work in real time.

Some computer-based tasks, like learning a new software, can also be made simpler with tools like screen sharing on a virtual internship.

Who knows, you might branch out more than expected:

“To me, the most surprising part of this internship was the freedom we had in suggesting and deciding the content we’d like to produce, after discussing the planned articles with the team each morning. Although we’d still get suggestions for topics to write on, the creative freedom we had was fantastic.” 

Virtual internships require patience and a specific working style. However, they are still one of the most useful tools open to people preparing for their next move in the job market:

“While there are pros and cons to remote working, I think the benefit of getting to know a new working environment, getting to know new people and gaining experience in the specific sector is an opportunity I’d recommend to make use of.”

To put it simply, virtual internships are only going to grow and become even more valuable as time goes on. They will continue to be an important part of an increasingly digital society, boosting university and job applications in a wide range of sectors.

Ready to get a head start on your future?

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