Student Post: New Directions After Postponed and Canceled Internships

Updated: September 2, 2020

By Saki Arimoto
Tokyo International University, Class of 2022


As 2020 started, I was looking forward to all the things I had planned. I had worked hard to have a very fruitful year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that—though in the end, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. 

As early as August 2019, I applied to do an internship at my university as a student-leader in charge of the school’s library. They were only hiring one person, so there was a lot of competition, but I was confident. I even started planning my next semester with the assumption that I’d be hired. After all, I had experience as a library staff member and met all the qualifications. Or so I thought.

This was my first experience with internship disappointment, and it had nothing to do with the pandemic. I received an email two weeks later, and it did not align with my expectations. Still, I used it as motivation to look for other opportunities. I applied to three other internships, and this time, I got accepted to all of them. I had it all planned out: I was supposed to have a five-day internship scheduled from the last week of February until the first week of March, a six-month internship from January until June, and an online internship throughout 2020. I prepared for all of these because I knew having so many responsibilities would be quite challenging. At the same time, I was so excited that I finally had plans to do something. But the pandemic changed everything.

The five-day internship got postponed soon after, while the six-month internship turned into a three-month internship. Luckily, the pandemic did not affect my online internship, but I was now looking at a near-empty calendar. It also changed my routine significantly. Before, I had to wake up very early to go to my part-time job or classes, but now, I didn’t have to since I was working fewer hours and my classes were online. I tried to fill those voids. I was still glad that I applied to my internships, as it made me into a person who always looks for new opportunities. I wanted to take that lesson with me amidst the pandemic, but it was much more challenging now. So, I looked for a new direction. 

First, I tried moving forward. Instead of internships, I thought that this could be the perfect time to focus on learning. I took a few free online courses, but I found it difficult to stick to their schedule. I was consistent for a few weeks, but eventually, I stopped. I enjoyed the fact that I was learning, but I lacked motivation. I could not understand why I was feeling this way, so I contacted my school’s career center. They helped me realize that I was not doing the courses for myself, but for others. I wanted to seem productive with my time, even if that was not exactly what I wanted. So I tried a different direction again.

Next, I tried going backward. I used to love reading. Before, I would read one book in 4-6 hours with a few breaks and finish it in one day. I cannot remember the last time I did that, as it was so long ago, so I tried reading. I could no longer read that long in a day, but I tried to include it in my routine. Now, I do this for a few hours at a time, and it fills the days.

I also used to watch a lot of TEDx talks, but was too distracted to watch other videos. So, I tried incorporating that into my schedule. Now, I watch at least one every day. I even created a playlist of my favorite talks. Most importantly, I used to spend a lot of time with my family. My family enjoys indoor activities. We would watch movies together, eat together, and play cards together. So, I went home, and we got to do all of those things.

All of these activities may not seem as fruitful as my original plans, but for me, they are. I’ve been able to reflect on myself, and I understand how I came to where I am now. This reminded me of one of the most famous quotes in the Philippines: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” This can mean different things based on the context. In my case, I am like a building undergoing constant construction and expansion. I’m trying to be the tallest building, but my foundation is weak. Such a building is bound to fall, so going back and strengthening its foundation is vital to saving the infrastructure. 

In other words, moving forward is not the only option. It is nice to go backwards from time to time, and this pandemic gave me the time to do this. I can proudly say that it was fruitful. 

I encourage everyone to do the same.