Georgia State students adapt as summer internships are canceled

Illustration by Roe | The Signal

The spring semester has ended, and the days are growing warmer as summer approaches. This year is different, though, as friends stand apart and graduations are moved online. 

Some students planned to have jobs, internships and study programs, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has yielded a much different reality. 

This year, Georgia State senior Adam Holcomb received his dream internship. Holcomb was selected as a database management intern for Norfolk Southern, a transportation company. This was his third time applying for a position with the company, and he finally received his congratulatory email. 

Holcomb was scheduled to work in Midtown reviewing the company’s electronic records and data. He was enticed by the company’s ranking on the 2019 Fortune 500 list and appreciated the job security offered by the Eastern railways.

“I applied every single year,” Holcomb said. “So, [this year,] I was like, ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m old enough.’ So, I was excited about it. It’s one of those internship-to-hire positions, so if you have the job, you’re like, ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge,’ you have a career there.” 

Understandably, Holcomb was disappointed by the company’s decision to cancel all internships. 

With one year left in his undergraduate program, Holcomb had hoped to pursue a career with the company. Luckily, he says, the company has instructed him to reach out after graduating, to aid with the job application process. 

Gov. Kemp has recently lifted the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, which has effectively reopened the state. Today, restaurants are offering partial dining services, Lenox Square is accepting customers, and the city is returning to a state of semi-normality. 

As employees return for business throughout the state, Holcomb finds himself disappointed by Norfolk Southern’s hasty cancellation, adding that his job could be done solely online, and he feels that he could have worked from home.

“I do kind of think [the cancellation] was premature because they could’ve done it in a different way,” Holcomb said. “[My job] is very electronic[-based]. It is something you can do from home, but they were very quick to say for the whole internship that nobody’s doing it.”

While Holcomb is eager to work, he adds that he’s “worried about people.”

“I don’t want to hurt [anyone] by spreading COVID-19, but I also really want to work,” he said.

Georgia State senior Aniya Barnett’s plans for the year have been disrupted, and she agreed with Holcomb about the pitfalls of hasty cancellations. 

Barnett planned to spend the next seven months in Orlando working as an intern at the Walt Disney World Resort. Barnett planned to apply for the Disney College Program when she began college. She enrolled in the program as a freshman and enjoyed the experience so much that she applied a second time. 

“I heard about the program [when I was] 14 or 15,” Barnett said. “I was online, and I saw someone talking about how they worked at Disney, and I thought that sounds like a dream job to me, to be at Disney all the time. I promised myself that when I became a freshman in college, I’d just apply for the program, and I ended up doing that.”

Through the program, students enroll in college courses and receive work experience in Disney’s amusement park. Barnett worked in food service her first year and was scheduled to work custodial this year.  

Her first year, Barnett enjoyed learning about the history of the company and how it became the entertainment empire it is today. She adds that the job helped her learn work ethic and valuable job skills. Barnett also spent her free time at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot, getting to connect with visitors from overseas. 

As COVID-19 began to spread across the U.S., Barnett remembers being in a group chat with other new hires, and “we were all praying together that the program would still be there.” 

Unfortunately for Barnett and her fellow hirees in mid-March, Disney decided to cancel the program, telling the students to apply again next year. 

Barnett understands the company’s decision to cancel all internships but wishes Disney had waited to make the decision.

“I think [the cancellation] was a good idea because they were pretty much protecting everyone and their safety,” Barnett said. “Also, there’s a part of me that’s like, now that everything is pretty much opening up in Georgia, and Florida is also doing the same thing, they could’ve kept me there. But I understand because it’s not going to be a regular opening due to the pandemic.”

Barnett was “devastated” by the cancellation and has scrambled to make other plans for the fall. She enrolled for on-campus classes, secured housing and is now looking for a new job. In light of recent changes, she plans to reapply for the Disney program next year. 

Holcomb has also adapted his route to graduation. To make up for lost work experience, he plans to get certifications in Excel, SQL and more. 

As the spring and summer semesters have been drastically altered, students hope for business as usual when the fall semester rolls around. Barnett and Holcomb hope for in-person classes and resumed life in downtown Atlanta.