There are usually several interns at InterNations, working in various teams from Corporate Communications to Corporate Partnerships. Our current interns have written about their internship experiences in times of COVID-19, about what they have enjoyed and what they hope for future generations of remote-first interns.
While we have embarked upon our internships at InterNations, many changes have been getting underway. The fluctuating COVID-19 levels, followed by the new remote-first policy, meant there has been a loss of the stability that comes with the daily routine of going into the office. However, there are also many positive aspects about remote work: more free time instead of commuting, spending less money on lunch and transportation, and more flexibility in working hours, to name a few.
Here’s what we think about our remote(ish) internships, with all their pros and cons!
Meriel: Corporate Communications Team
After many of my coursemates were devastated by the cancellation of their placement year due to the ongoing pandemic, I was overwhelmed with relief when I was offered my internship in the Content & Communications Department at InterNations.
Once I started in July 2020, I worked completely remotely for the first two months — not even from Germany, but from England! My onboarding sessions were all conducted remotely too. Having multiple online trainings a day for the first two weeks was really exhausting; staying focused for such a long time in my kitchen at home was not something I was used to.
From August, I was able to move to Munich and go into the office to work, following the company’s COVID-19 protocol. It was lovely to actually meet my team in person. While I really enjoyed being able to go into the office at first, I preferred working from home when the days got shorter. It gives me more flexibility in my working hours, and I got to enjoy a bit more daylight in winter! When the days are longer again in the summer months, I will be happy to return to the office a few days a week since working in different environments helps keep me stimulated.
I really like that InterNations is now a remote-first company. However, the main thing most of us miss about the office is socializing with our colleagues and casual chats around the coffee machine. So, I’m looking forward to seeing InterNations introduce new opportunities for team bonding.
Alannah: Brand Engagement Team
I started at InterNations in September 2020, and although this feels like a distant dream with the recent pandemic situation in Germany, I was going into the office two or three times a week! My first day was the only time I met my supervisor, our Social Media Manager Samantha, in person. From around November onwards, trips into the office had to be for essential reasons only, and suddenly I was working from home five days a week.
This drastic switch to working remotely full time hit me hard. I loved seeing my colleagues and meeting people from other departments. Of course, I understood that it was a necessary change made for health and safety reasons, and I have felt wholly supported throughout the change to remote work. Still, at first, I not only struggled to find motivation during the working day, but I also found it difficult to switch off at the end of the day — an issue many remote workers can relate to. After a while, though, I found new ways to enjoy myself: I started looking forward to our weekly meetings because they were a chance to catch up with other team members.
InterNations now aims to be a remote-first company, which may be one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic. This will give all employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them best and reduces commuting times for those who don’t live in central Munich. But once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, I hope the company will organize social activities outside of work for all employees.
Harween: Product Content Team
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many related restrictions, my onboarding experience with InterNations was quite different from what I had planned. Since I was unable to move to Munich and come to the office, I was onboarded remotely, from my home in the UK.
The onboarding process was actually very smooth. InterNations is a highly organized company, and my introductory meetings and training sessions were well planned and informative. Everyone was also really friendly and made me feel welcome! I was then assigned short tasks, so that I could get used to the InterNations style and learn more about the brand.
Other than waiting for my laptop to load when I am on a video call, ensuring that the background is clear, and muting my microphone at the right time, working remotely has not been difficult for me. In fact, working from the comfort of my own home and avoiding a stressful commute feels great. This may be the future!
However, I sometimes miss the social aspect of being able to see my colleagues in person and spending time at the office together. It would also have been great to actually move to another country and get familiar with a new environment.
Kalena: Corporate Communications Team
One of the most talked-about traits of a company today is the company culture. Businesses, especially young companies and start-ups, focus on having a work environment that is welcoming, fun, and engaging. The days of sitting in cubicles and quietly working on a computer are over for many employees around the world. The DNA of a company is what makes it unique, and getting to know its “personality” is an important part of the onboarding process.
Of course, with COVID-19 and remote work, this process of adjusting to the company culture is quite different. For example, I remember that only some of us would switch our cameras on during team meetings at the beginning of my internship. Our Team Lead encouraged us all to put our cameras on during every meeting, and she also adjusted the agenda to include more time for small talk, like an in-person meeting would automatically have. This really made such a difference.
As the Corporate Communications Team, we also brainstormed ways to keep the team engaged despite us being behind screens all the time. For instance, we added some fun “question of the week” discussions in our Slack channel to help generate opportunities for off-topic chatter. It definitely takes some extra steps, but if you’re intentional, like my team was, you can still foster a strong team spirit and company culture during remote work.
Desana: Corporate Partnerships Team
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, I started my internship remotely, from Slovakia, and the entire onboarding process — including meeting my colleagues from the Corporate Partnerships Team and taking care of some administrative tasks — was done online.
Considering the sudden switch to remote work, the onboarding process went quite smoothly. I did not feel too overwhelmed, either by the amount of work or by the fact that I would be doing everything from behind my computer screen without interacting with my team in person. Even though my onboarding was a little fast-paced, due to the short overlap with Frank, the team’s previous intern, I felt very much supported by my colleagues. Besides receiving support and encouragement, I was also provided with onboarding materials, which helped me get my bearings and learn more about my daily tasks.
However, I find the actual situation of working remotely rather difficult. Working from my home country, I cannot shadow my colleagues at the office while I am still learning on the job and acquiring new skills. Although they are always there to help if I have any questions, it would be much better if I could meet them in person. Also, the necessary technology sometimes fails to work for me — I will lose my internet connection, for example, or the audio signal will be constantly lagging behind during an introductory session, which can be rather frustrating.
Nevertheless, I am very grateful for the friendly company culture at InterNations, for the support from HR, and especially for my colleagues, who have made this experience much easier for me, despite the occasional difficulties.
Thea: Corporate Communications Team
Having never worked in an office before, I was excited and nervous to start at InterNations. My first few weeks were spent in the office, and though I found this time busy and tiring, I learned so much! It was lovely to start by meeting everyone in person and to experience what it is like to work in an office environment, just before remote work took over.
I was onboarded both online and in person. The latter was a lot easier, but I have never felt stuck and could always ask someone for help. Despite the lack of in-person social contact, regular team calls have made the remote internship easier. And while it would be great to return to the office and see everyone again, I have enjoyed exploring all our Slack channels and being able to find out what is going in other teams and departments. I really appreciate this because most employees working remotely, especially interns, hardly have any connection with departments other than their own.
I think it would be great if, in the future, InterNations could provide more opportunities to introduce interns to other teams so that they have a better understanding of the entire company. For example, I really enjoy being included in company-wide learning and training sessions organized by our Feel Good Managers. These are not only an opportunity to learn about a range of topics from experts, but also to keep up with other departments. More of this, please!
Ryan: Community Support Team
As this internship is my first job after I finished my studies, I was excited about experiencing office life. When joining InterNations in October 2020, I had the chance to meet some of my colleagues in person on my first day, especially those I would work with every day.
During the first few weeks, everything was just like what I‘d expected: working closely with my team in a productive atmosphere and enjoying the lively interactions with my colleagues. However, lockdown restrictions were tightened in November, and we were told to work from home for safety reasons. In the beginning, I was upset about no longer being able to come to the office, but I gradually got used to it.
I think InterNations has coped really well with this change, for example, switching to online meetings and training sessions and updating the tools and processes for internal communication. I appreciate everything InterNations has done to keep our team spirit strong, even during times like these.
Lastly, with my internship coming to an end, I will soon be going through the off-boarding process. It has now been set up remotely: my final feedback talk will take place as a video conference, and important documents, such as my letter of reference, will be sent as digital files, which I can easily access from anywhere. This is probably the saddest part about a remote internship, though: when I leave, I won’t be able say goodbye in person. I can only hope that it‘s not goodbye, just auf Wiedersehen (see you soon)!
The internship experience has been rather different for all of us this year. It has not always been smooth sailing, and we have faced many struggles, from getting to grips with Slack and Microsoft Teams to trying to complete group projects without being able to meet in person. However, we‘ve embraced these challenges and all ended up enjoying ourselves throughout!
The people working at InterNations make the company what it is, and during a time of so much uncertainty, they have felt like a second family in many ways. We all agree that the company culture is unique, and we sincerely hope it will stay that way in a remote-first setting.
And if you would like to know more about the entire InterNations internship experience during the introduction of remote work, just take a look at what our Human Resources Intern Amy has to say about this topic!
Image credit: InterNations / private (Alannah Harris, Desana Rusková, Harween Kohrana, Ryan Wu, Thea Wallis)