By: Alexa Shockley (Intern)

I am, proudly, an Emory & Henry College student from Southwest Virginia. Being a college student and experiencing higher education is a unique experience for each person lucky enough to partake in it. Like most activities, the college experience has undergone some major changes in 2020 and 2021. Virtual classes, online meetings, and doing work completely digitally has brought challenges while also engendering some unexpected advantages. An important aspect of the college experience, at least for me as a Mass Communications and Creative Writing double major, is internships. I am currently in the sixth week of my internship here at Commonwealth PR, and this adventure has also been affected by the pandemic. Given all of these experiences I am having, experiences that college students of the past and future will likely never come close to understanding, I present three observations about being a college student (and PR intern) during a pandemic.

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic presents distinct opportunities. Alongside the countless tragedies sparked by the pandemic, some advantages seem to have developed. Our society in general has realized, and overcome, countless communication limitations we set for ourselves long ago. We no longer rely on face-to-face interactions to share knowledge and experiences. A college sophomore living on campus in Southwest Virginia may not have considered an internship with a PR firm in Richmond two years ago, but today this opportunity is presented to me completely virtually. I am working with, networking with, and getting to know the CPR team while never having met them in person or shaken their hands. It is a unique situation, but it is one I am glad to be a part of and excited to learn from.
  2. Virtual learning can be just as valuable as face-to-face learning. While some disciplines may be better suited by interpersonal interaction, I have been able to gain many valuable skills in the communications field through virtual learning. I have learned about persuasion theory, publication, design, video media, and now about the world of public relations, all through my computer. Virtual learning is not without its challenges and limitations, but it is not a worthless experience. Though I would love to be in a classroom again, virtual learning has been the next best alternative to further my education during a pandemic that I could ask for.
  3. It is worth your time and effort to seek out every opportunity you can. I am not saying that a college student or intern should overload their plate to the point they are not being a productive member of any one group, but there are a lot of experiences available during college years and so many of them are valuable. I have been able to serve as the editor in chief of my college newspaper, work for the college’s literary magazine, participate in Greek Life, be in the marching band, partake in this internship, and so much more in the two years I have been at Emory & Henry. Seeking out these opportunities is making my present one of the best times of my life while also fleshing out my resume for my future. I have participated virtually in a majority of the activities listed for the past year.

I long for the day I can march with my band again and take an internship in person, but the world is not waiting for the pandemic to end. Even if COVID-19 persists well into my senior year of college, I will be prepared to graduate because opportunities like this virtual internship exist, and that is something I am grateful for.