Nothing about the summer of 2020 has been normal, at all. Early this year, COVID-19 grew in the US at an alarming rate, sending all college students home after spring break. All of my classes were moved to online and a large majority of students, including myself, moved back into their childhood homes with their families. This itself presented many challenges. Let me clarify, I am not here to say that college students have had it the hardest, because every community has been impacted differently by this pandemic. However, I believe that it is safe to say that college students, specifically undergraduates, have had some different adjustments than what others may have considered. Every element of our lives changed, all the way to where we called home.
Virtual Internship and a Viral Pandemic
In January of this year (seems like a lifetime ago) I was searching for an internship opportunity. I needed an internship to complete my entrepreneurship minor, but I also just knew I would want something educational to do this summer. I reached out to a family friend who has a large network in the Raleigh area. He sent me a few different companies for me to research. The R+M website was one of the first I looked through. I was absolutely thrilled to apply here after only spending about 10 minutes on the website. It was a small agency, something I had become familiar with as my last summer internship. I read the bio of every single team member and could picture myself on that website. I also had recently learned what it means to be a B-Corp certified business in one of my entrepreneurship classes, so this was extremely impressive to me. The team at R+M did an excellent job with their website because you can get a good feel for the culture of the business with just a few scrolls. I decided to fill out the application (one of the most fun applications I have ever completed) and secured an interview within a few weeks. Since I live in Chapel Hill, NC during the academic year, I had my interview via google meets. Now that every single meeting is virtual these days, I wish I had just made the drive to Cary for that interview! Anyways, after my interview with Caralynn and Melissa, I knew I would accept this job if it was offered. Sure enough, right before the COVID-19 shut downs began, I was offered this job and I was more than happy to commit to R+M!
Fast forward to the end of May, and I was not surprised to find that my summer internship had been moved online. I was actually very relieved to see that we were going to be virtual instead of non-existent. Most of my peers had their internship programs cancelled. I was feeling very grateful. Despite the fact that I was fortunate to still have a job, things were still going to look much different than I had imagined when I applied in February. For example, my favorite part of new jobs is forming new relationships in person, and while I was still able to enjoy this virtual experience and make connections in different ways than I have in previous work places, I was still going to miss some of the bonding time I usually treasure so much during internships. There were going to be no in person meetings or lunches or even a simple desk at the actual office. I along with the rest of the country have learned to sort of adjust to a virtual office, but it was still difficult.
I have learned more this summer from my job at R+M than I have in previous internships. I have discovered I am interested in areas I did not think I would be, and uninterested in areas I thought I would love. It was truly a summer internship full of self discovery and learning. This to me is the most valuable part of the internship experiences. The #AgentsofGoodness at R+M welcomed myself and my fellow intern with open arms. We were invited to every type of meeting, including meetings with actual clients!! This is not the norm with agency interns (at least in my experience and to my understanding). I also thoroughly enjoyed the R+M way of creating and fostering a real relationship with their clients and was honored that they allowed me to speak up during these and make some of my own relationships with clients.
I was given a spreadsheet that had all of my current projects and assignments on it that allowed me to stay organized during a distanced internship experience. This was incredibly helpful, especially for a student with ADHD like myself. Having help staying organized made a difference as I was able to be confident in my ability to contribute. I have felt actually useful and heard this summer which is special for a college student intern! One of my favorite things about this internship was the connection it had to my course work in school. It is interesting to see what writing a press release actually looks like in the working world instead of just trying to turn it in before the start of class. It was also interesting to see things I have learned in my entrepreneurship classes carry over to the branding world. I learned how to make a variety of graphics last semester and it felt incredible knowing the software that others at R+M were using already. It was also evident to me that my education was maybe going to pay off, since I seemed to know and understand most of the terminology and most of the work I was doing.
There was one client in particular that I absolutely loved working with. We are in the process of planning an event for them, and I am familiar with event planning because of my leadership role in my sorority and in another club on campus. I also learned through this particular work around this client that the smallest of details at an event like the one we are planning can make a massive difference and leave a lasting impression on attendees. It was very interesting to compare and contrast clients and their working styles. That is one of the tricky things about agency life. You have to try your best to communicate and work in a similar style to the client. This means every agent at R+M wears about 50 different hats every day. Every client is a new hat. While I have enjoyed this experience thoroughly, I definitely learned that agency life is more difficult than I perceived through what I learned in my classes at Carolina. Now I better understand the commitment that an Agency requires.
Overall this internship experience has been nothing but positive. I am so grateful for the opportunity and appreciative of everyone at R+M for working with me as I navigated my first virtual internship/job. I learned so much about myself and agency life.
Looking Forward, Grateful
Although my final year as a Tar Heel will look extremely different, I am working hard to shift my perspective to one of gratitude. I am grateful for my health, I am grateful for the opportunities I have, I am grateful to have a job, and I am grateful for the years I have spent in a college community that is going to be extremely hard to say goodbye to. I am grateful to have had the chance to attend UNC as it is something I have looked forward to since I was a child. I am also grateful for every person that I have met and every experience I have had as it led me to be the young woman I am today.
I am taking some very exciting classes such as public relations research and creative advertising campaigns. These are classes I have wanted to take for a while and now that I am a senior I finally had the chance to get into them! Just another thing to be grateful for. This fall I will finish my time as President of ZTA and begin my journey as the image coordinator for the Rotary District that Chapel Hill falls under. I am also looking forward to engaging with my previous part time internship at the Compass Center in Chapel Hill. I enjoyed planning events for them last semester and hope to be involved again.
Similarly to most rising seniors in Corona times, I have no idea what the future holds. I hope to find a job I am passionate about and a new community I can impact for the better. I have tried my hardest to live by that rule about leaving things better than you found them, and I hope to do just that wherever the next few years take me. Hopefully I will find a career in advertising or public relations, or maybe I will use my entrepreneurship minor and start a business. Your guess is as good as mine!
To read more about Lauren Hornick’s virtual college experience as well as her virtual campus leadership, visit her here.