Adapting to the New Normal-Ashinaga Internships
Covid-19 has significantly altered the lives of students worldwide. Its negative impact has reached every corner of their academic and professional experiences, including internships. Internships are important for securing full-time job offers, validating a student’s chosen field, developing professional skills, and finding mentors. The implications of the pandemic resulted in most internships being canceled, postponed, or turned virtual.
Interns have played a significant role in helping Ashinaga achieve its goals. They work on various projects and contribute their skills and insights to different teams within the organization. In addition, the interns form strong bonds with the Ashinaga scholars and provide a special network of peer mentors.
Due to the travel limitations, the Ashinaga internship program was put on hold for the first year. According to Qian Yi Quek, the internship program coordinator: ’’In the early phase of the pandemic we had no choice but to cancel the internship program due to rising numbers of COVID cases and travel restrictions.’’ The internship program team at Ashinaga was faced with the challenge to adapt to the new normal. Qian explained: ‘’While our initial thought was to wait until the situation was safe enough to allow internships to resume, the pandemic ended up extending longer than anyone had predicted. After a full year of not having any internships, we decided that it was time we considered the possibility of remote internships, rather than simply waiting the pandemic out.’’
In the Fall of 2021, Ashinaga successfully conducted the first remote internship, which fit well with the organization’s remote working style. ‘’Although working with time zone differences has been tricky, interns were able to work with different teams from HQ and continue to contribute to the work that Ashinaga does, despite not being able to have an in-person experience.’’
We spoke to one of the previous fall interns, Pia, who completed her internship with the Graduates and Alumni team remotely from the Philippines. “My internship with Ashinaga was one of the highlights of my university life. I only have fond memories when I look back on my time with the organization—from the application process to the actual workdays. The Graduates and Alumni Team was supportive throughout my stay; my supervisors encouraged me to be myself, voice out my ideas, and improve professionally. I gained invaluable wisdom about career and life from them.”
Pia talked about the convenience of working from the comfort of home. ”The remote setup had both ups and downs. It made everything convenient: Events, meetings, and submissions were all a click away! I had time flexibility, too.” Some of the main challenges of virtual internships from Pia’s experience were the Zoom fatigue and lack of organic interactions and communication. Pia shared ‘’ Despite the constraints, my remote internship with Ashinaga remains etched in my heart. I never thought I could learn, accomplish, and enjoy as much as I did under a virtual work arrangement. The organization upheld its commitment to professional development and global outlook. I still had the chance to learn the operations of an NGO, experience the fun in a multicultural work environment, and connect with people around the globe—all with my laptop!’’
Ashinaga is committed to tailoring the Ashinaga experience to the new normal all while the interns’ professional development. After completing the program, interns join a network of Ashinaga Intern Alumni from around the world. This active community is a great way to stay in touch, exchange professional advice and follow up on updates from Ashinaga.
The skills and experience gained while interning with Ashinaga are widely applicable to different fields. The Internship Program has been an eye-opening experience for some former interns who felt inspired to build a career in the third sector or even start their own organizations. In the past five years, Ashinaga has used the Internship Program to find dedicated individuals who have eventually joined us as staff. To this date, 33 past interns have joined Ashinaga in Ashinaga’s offices in Tokyo, Kobe, New York, Paris, London, Dakar, Kampala, and Sao Paolo.
If you are interested in contributing to Ashinaga’s mission to provide education and support to orphaned students worldwide, we encourage you to check out Ashinaga’s internship cycles and apply to the position that interests you!
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