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A silver lining: the pandemic’s effect on practical skills

<p>Despite the constraints of quarantine, some students are taking the opportunity to sharpen their professional abilities.</p>

Despite the constraints of quarantine, some students are taking the opportunity to sharpen their professional abilities.

“Kids these days don’t know how to do much of anything.”  

It’s a common statement, and everyone has been a recipient of the phrase to some degree. Whether they don’t know how to study, talk on the phone or have a professional conversation, the statement is a calling card of comparison between generations.

But the last nine months have drastically shifted the circumstances in which students find themselves. It’s quite possible that “kids these days” are learning a lot more of the skills that were previously thought to be lost to their generation.

Time in quarantine has created a completely new setting in which

students are learning — and re-learning — practical skills.

Miami’s Center for Career Exploration and Success hosted a Zoom program titled “Virtual Internships: What Are They Really Like?” on Monday, Oct. 26. During the program, the

student speakers were asked about the skills they found to be invaluable during their virtual


“I had to learn how to communicate more effectively virtually,” said Morgan Pohl, a senior accountancy and business analytics major who interned virtually with Plante Moran’s audit practice in Denver.

Pohl explained the differences she perceived between normal and virtual internships.

“When you're at location, it's easy to lean over and ask a question, but virtually, you're all alone,” she said. “You have to proactively use the resources given to you when you're struggling and communicate problems before they really become problems.”

Many other students on the panel emphasized this importance of proactive communication, as

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well as how they have seen that action grow into one of their strengths over the summer.

Pohl also spoke on how important it was to have strong self-accountability and time management.

“You have to stay on track, even when no one is keeping an eye on you, and you don’t have

deadlines,” Pohl said.

Nicholas Gerard, a senior majoring in software engineering, also noted the importance of taking matters into your own hands, especially with technology.

“You have to know how to search for answers and solve your own problems because a lot of stuff is new tech,” Gerard said.

Gerard held a virtual internship with Progressive Insurance over the summer. Like many students across the country, he found the sudden spike in the usage of online classrooms and meeting spaces increased the amount of errors or bugs he needed to fix.

Gerard also stressed the idea of giving himself enough breaks. Because much of his

internship was coding-based, it was easy to work through meals and get his work done as fast as


“I was going toward burnout,” Gerard said.

He realized this halfway through his internship and made adjustments to his schedule to include a healthy amount of breaks. At the same time, he began to take advantage of the opportunity he had to make connections, both with potential employers and his fellow interns.

The pandemic hasn’t only affected internship opportunities, though. The current circumstances have also placed into focus what matters most for many students: relationships.

Katie Krueger, a first-year psychology major, explained how the pandemic and quarantine

encouraged her to continue cultivating relationships with those she loved.

“For me, personally,” Krueger said, “COVID has made it a lot more important to keep in touch with people virtually.”

She arrived on campus with the knowledge that she would have to consistently reach out to her

friends and family to keep in touch. This sort of virtual relationship requires intentional phone

calls, messages and online get-togethers.

Krueger also notes how the circumstances of the pandemic have pushed her out of her comfort

zone when it comes to meeting people.

“Since I came to campus, I’ve been forced to actively go out and introduce myself — while

keeping social distance guidelines, of course — to make friends,” Krueger said.

This sort of intentional relationship-building has increased over the last semester as

students in all grades have had to balance making friendships with health and safety guidelines.

From internships going virtual to making friends behind masks, the circumstances surrounding the pandemic have certainly negatively affected our lives. But maybe they’ve also encouraged us to implement practical skills, invest in our relationships and grow in ways we hadn’t ever thought of before.