Pitt students reflect on summer jobs, internships and activities

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Caela Go | Assistant Visual Editor

The University Honors College in the Cathedral of Learning.

By Betul Tuncer, Staff Writer

For some students, summer includes relaxing and taking a break from the rush and workload of college. For others, it involves a different type of busyness with summer courses, internship positions and part-time jobs. With classes starting Friday, Pitt students reflected on their experiences from this summer.

Despite in-person activities becoming more frequent and government officials easing COVID-19 restrictions in some states, remote work and mask-wearing were two common themes amongst Pitt students this summer. Though Ulyera Brooks, a sophomore political science and English major, said working at Dunkin’ Donuts in her home state of South Carolina this summer sometimes felt like the pandemic was “non-existent.”

“Honestly my job often acted like the pandemic was non-existent,” Brooks said. “We were given the option of whether or not we wanted to wear masks so a lot of people chose not to. We couldn’t enforce mask wearing in our store so the majority of customers chose not to wear one.”

Brooks said despite the conditions at her job, she chose to take precautions like wearing a mask. 

“I got my second vaccine shot in May so I was vaccinated at the beginning of the summer,” Brooks said. “I chose to wear a mask if I went into public for my own safety and for the safety of others.”

Summer and a break from school doesn’t always mean sleeping in. Brooks’ summer days started early at 4:30 a.m. She also said she was at work most days and didn’t necessarily have the chance to travel places.

“My summer wasn’t very adventurous but I did have a good time getting to know my coworkers. I worked a lot so I was just constantly busy,” Brooks said. “I would leave for work at 4:30 in the morning and not come back until the afternoon so I was constantly tired. My work schedule limited me a lot so I didn’t travel anywhere.”

Stephanie Ijomor, a sophomore chemistry major, said she had a lot to do this summer compared to previous years because she wanted to experience new things. One of those experiences was working at an eight-week service program with Americorps VISTA, a national service program that works to improve communities.

Ijomor said her service program working with the state service commission from Michigan on making volunteer opportunities more accessible to residents, along with a summer physics course she took at a local state college, were engaging and manageable given that both were online. 

“My physics class and service program were both remote so navigating it was pretty doable,” Ijomor said. “Also my service program began once my physics class ended so they were not simultaneous. I think the most difficult part was spending so much time on the computer.”

Ijomor said she enjoyed working remotely and since her service program was in a different state from her own, it made the experience “unique.” 

“Working remotely was especially unique for me because my job was not in my state. I think the only obstacle was learning about a state I do not live in,” Ijomor said. I think with working remotely the time was more flexible and I also had extra time to catch up on work versus if I worked in person.”

Like Ijomor, other Pitt students also engaged in remote work over in-person during the summer. Vidya Surti, a sophomore neuroscience and anthropology major, had both an online internship and classes and said she liked how the remote elements made her work more flexible. 

“I enjoy working remotely with people across the globe,” Surti said. “The NGO I work for is flexible and remote making it great for zoom meetings in different time zones and working on long-term projects.”

Surti said the summer allowed her to spend time researching her interests in global health and anthropology, as well as connect with more people during her ongoing internship at Partners for Patients, an NGO that advocates and researches different global health issues. Surti works as a senior health policy analyst intern and has been working on a policy project looking to find an online management solution to chronic pain in Latin American Indigenous communities, in conjunction with the Brackenridge Fellowship at the University Honors College

“This summer was busier and more rewarding than the previous summers. There was definitely a bit more social interaction because of classes and the Brackenridge cohort,” Surti said.

To stay safe from COVID-19 this summer, many students opted to get vaccinated and wore masks when necessary. Nia Eberhard, a sophomore political science major, said she felt safer traveling this year compared to last summer, especially with the vaccine.

“This summer felt more safe compared to last year but I did have more fun in the years prior,” Eberhard said. 

Eberhard, who traveled and released music as an artist this summer, said because of the vaccine and government officials lifting restrictions in New York and New Jersey, the pandemic didn’t seem to be “much of a problem.” 

Surti said her online work made it easier to stay away from crowds and she opted to wear masks. 

“I think I was a little lucky in how I planned out my summer. I mostly stayed online,” Surti said. “I took all precautions, such as getting two doses of the vaccine and wearing a mask at all times when I wasn’t home.”

Ijomor said she made sure to stay safe this summer by wearing a mask and avoiding large events. She said she hopes the fall semester will also be safe and everyone will follow the COVID-19 guidelines. 

“I wore a mask both inside and outdoors at all times. I only took it off when I was in the car and also stayed home for the majority of the pandemic. I didn’t socialize with people until I was vaccinated and even then I still wore masks,” Ijomor said. “I hope that we are able to have a safe semester and that people will follow the rules.”

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