Illustration: Kotryna Zukauskaite

Maya Eashwaran ’21
In early February, Ashley Morales ’22 received the long-awaited email from Princeton’s International Internship Program. The subject line said it all — “Accepted!” In a mere few months, she was to start an internship in Paris, France. It would have been her first time abroad. 

Along with more than 200 students in the internship program, Morales was told in early April that her opportunity would be canceled because of the ongoing pandemic. 

Similarly, Princeton Internships in Civic Service moved all on-site internships to a remote format. Instead of exploring a new city in a foreign country or commuting to Capitol Hill in the Washington, D.C., heat, students will have to work from their homes, forgoing classic summer experiences like making friends from different schools, adjusting to a new workplace, and forming connections with colleagues. 

While students’ plans may have been significantly altered by COVID-19, alumni and Princeton staff are coming together to assist students as they navigate the uncertainty of the current job market. The Center for Career Development has devised tools — including virtual advising appointments, specialized guides and resources, and increased alumni engagement — to equip students seeking new opportunities.

“The situation around COVID-19 has resulted in widespread uncertainty for students, including their summer and post-graduation plans,” said Kimberly Betz, executive director of the center. “The Center for Career Development is available to assist students throughout the summer, and will continue to support the Class of 2020 in the pursuit of their post-graduation plans.” 

Princeton’s alumni network is key in the Center for Career Development’s strategy. “We put out a call for alumni volunteers who are able to provide students with opportunities to learn and grow professionally,” Betz said. More than 200 alumni have volunteered to assist students by sharing opportunities at their places of work, coordinating remote projects and connecting directly with students. As of late May, more than 170 internships and jobs had been offered to students by alumni. 

While many internship programs have been canceled, new graduates with full-time job offers are faring better. Betz noted. “Some employers will keep positions in person, some will adjust their positions to make them remote, some are changing start dates, and some are still unsure,” she said.

However, the unpredictability of the job market in the extended health crisis has heightened stress for the senior class. Employers, like students, are struggling to formulate plans due to the constantly changing nature of the crisis, adding to the anxiety recent grads face. 

“It’s also been really difficult in terms of planning to move because it’s unrealistic and unsafe to get an apartment right now, but it isn’t exactly ideal to begin our careers from our childhood homes,” said Erin Boateng ’20, who expected to start working in New York this summer.

However, Boateng noted that the outpouring of support from fellow students and staff has been encouraging as the recent graduates try to find their way.

Morales, the rising junior who’d seen her international internship canceled, also expressed gratitude for the guidance she found from the Center for Career Development and the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship. After months of applying to jobs, she found an opportunity to work remotely for a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador. The internship is well-suited to her career goals and allows her to interact with prominent international human-rights lawyers on a daily basis. 

However, Morales still thinks of the summer that could have been. 

“I’ve wanted to go to Paris since I was in elementary school,” she said. “I was really devastated when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go.”