Sophomores Obtain Internships In The Hopes Of Salvaging Their Summer

by Claire Callahan | 5/27/20 2:20am

When the College announced that summer term would be remote, members of the Class of 2022 had to decide whether to have their sophomore summer online or push it off until next year. Three sophomores — Ronnie Ahlborn ’22, Lidia Balanovich ’22,  and Ian Stiehl ’22 — settled on doing remote internships this summer instead of online classes.

Balanovich said that her decision wasn’t spurred by her desire to have an in-person sophomore summer; she just didn’t want to spend another Dartmouth term taking virtual classes. This spring, she is taking a project-based class, an exam-based class and a discussion-based class — she said that none have translated well to an online format. 

“I can't blame the faculty or anything,” Balanovich said. “It's just the nature of the situation.”

Stiehl added he thinks that the value of Dartmouth lies as much in its social aspect as in its academics.

“The way Dartmouth is choosing to charge full tuition just doesn't make sense to me,” Stiehl said. “It's not the same value, objectively. Seeing a lecture and having office hours is not the extent of what the Dartmouth learning experience is.”

Balanovich quickly decided that she would postpone her sophomore summer and began sending out her resume in the hope of securing an internship. She landed an offer at Allscripts, a health care IT company, where she’ll be working on an app that transfers medical records from the hospital to wherever the patient is going next, like a physical therapist or psychologist. Balanovich will work with doctors, nurses and patients to find out how to make the software intuitive and user-friendly.

“I've never designed for health care or anything to do with medicine and doctors,” Balanovich said. “It's just a new, exciting set of users that I haven't yet been able to work with.”

Balanovich noted that it was important for her to find a paid internship this summer. She said that if she had not secured a salaried internship, she probably would have taken classes instead.

“Either I'm supporting myself or I'm taking classes — I can't just be doing neither of those in an off term,” Balanovich said. “But I'm really grateful that this happened because it's such a hectic time for anyone to find an internship. I'm grateful that I was able to find something that's so closely related to what I want to do for a career.”

Ahlborn started working at Bobblehaus, an online clothing retailer, over winter break. Ahlborn wrote remotely for the company’s blog, which covers topics like fashion, art, trends and music, before moving to New York City for winter term to do graphic design for the company.

“It was really fun while I was in New York because I got to help out at all the photo shoots and go to all their meetings,” she said. “There’s all this cool stuff that comes with the fashion world that I had no idea about.”

Ahlborn’s job as a curator of Bobblehaus’ online appearance translates well to remote work, but as she worked part-time this spring, she found that there were still difficulties when communicating with the head of design.

“It's definitely so different to be texting her screenshots of things and asking her what she thinks,” Ahlborn said. “It’s so much simpler when you're in-person and you can just be sitting next to each other.”

Even with these hiccups, Ahlborn is excited to work close to full-time this summer. Ahlborn expressed that this job has even made her change her field of study at Dartmouth. 

“While I was in New York, I actually switched my major to [studio] art,” she said. “I was like, ‘Maybe this is actually something that I could do forever.’ I'm literally getting paid to make art, which is so sick.” 

Stiehl, an astronomy major, recently won a Stamps scholarship to pursue space biology and space medicine and evaluate the feasibility of interplanetary exploration for humans. He’ll be working remotely this summer — and hopefully on-site in the fall — with staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to look at physiological changes that occur in low-gravity settings.

“I always knew that I loved space and I always wanted to be a doctor, so this was the best way to combine those two interests,” he said. “[The internship] is about being an astronaut and still working with human health, so it's ideal.”

The lab works with rats on a suspension system with different amounts of tension on the chains to look at the effect of different levels of gravity on muscle tissue.

“I'd say the biggest drawback [of working remotely] is that I don't get to touch rats every day, and I’m not super bummed about that,” Stiehl said. “I think it's going to be equally fulfilling just to do it at home.”

Being in college has its own unique host of anxieties spurred by the pandemic. Altered D-Plans jeopardize internship opportunities, online classes endanger learning quality and an unsure job market makes graduation ever more intimidating. On top of that, ’22s are still mourning the loss of sophomore summer. With the huge losses happening around the world, it feels frivolous to shed tears over a remote term — but with the lore of sophomore summer being "the best term on campus," it feels as if we are missing out on a pivotal moment in our Dartmouth careers, and that feels deeply sad. Students brush it off, though, and find jobs and activities to keep them occupied, finding light in a less-than-ideal situation. 

Stiehl is trying to focus on the present and not spend too much time anticipating the uncertain future. 

“I'm just rolling with the punches as they come right now,” Stiehl said. “I’m trying to spend my energy being positive instead of being worried. I’m lucky in the grand scheme of things.”

Ahlborn said she takes comfort in knowing that she is not alone in her struggles. 

“I am stressed about the job market, but I haven't let that get to like the forefront of my mind,” she said. “Everyone our age is going to be doing this at the same time, so that makes me feel better.”