Students who had previously committed to summer internships through the University’s International Internship Program (IIP) and Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) were informed via email on April 7 and April 8 respectively that both programs’ in-person internships had been cancelled in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“Decisions on how to proceed with summer internships are being made by each program, based on the program’s objectives and the challenging circumstances we all now face,” wrote University Spokesperson Ben Chang in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “More information and specific guidance is forthcoming.”
Chang also noted that PICS functions independently of the University.
In an email to students planning on participating in a PICS internship over the summer, PICS Executive Director Jeri Schaefer stated that all 2020 internships in the PICS program will now be remote, with the exception of those that “cannot adapt to the remote format,” which will be canceled. If the internship is in fact remote, the email noted, the stipend amount will not change from that which was indicated to the student when they first applied.
Upon receiving notice that their internship is now remote, students will have one week to confirm their continued interest in participating.
With regard to deferring acceptance to the following summer if a student’s internship was cancelled, the email stated, “This is definitely something we’re exploring, but it’s impossible for us to make commitments right now.”
For students who had already made deposits on housing for the summer for their internship prior to March 11, the email noted that requests for refunds will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and “all reasonable efforts to reimburse students” will be made.
IIP staff clarified that even if the IIP host organization offered the student a remote-work option, the student cannot participate in it.
“To preserve the equity and integrity of IIP, working remotely will not be an option,” the email to students read. “While some organizations may have the capability to assign work virtually, this is not possible for most of our partners. The quality of work for both the intern and the employer may be compromised. It would be difficult to provide the guidance, monitoring, and evaluation typically offered through an IIP.”
Similarly, the email stated that students cannot intern with the host organization without IIP funding, since regardless of funding, all IIPs are sponsored by the University. The office also clarified that students may not petition to go to their IIP on the grounds that the particular country only has a few confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Please note that we ask you not to engage with IIP partners directly,” the email added.
Additionally, the IIP email noted that the program will request that all IIP host organizations defer internship offers from summer 2020 to summer 2021.
“While we cannot guarantee your placement, we will do our best to honor as many internships as possible for next summer,” IIP staff wrote.
IIP will also be providing refunds for purchased plane tickets and accommodations, stating that students should “allow for four to six weeks to receive the reimbursement via direct deposit.”
In both the PICS and IIP announcements, the programs encouraged students to still include the internships on their resumes even if they were canceled, and stated that students should communicate directly with academic departments regarding the cancellation of internships that would have been required to complete certain certificate programs.
For Grey Raber ’23, her PICS internship at a charter school in Newark, now likely canceled, was more than just a checkbox for a resume or a certificate.
Raber is a staff copy editor for the ‘Prince’.
“I was excited about it because I was kind of using this as a way to help guide myself toward what I think I might want my profession to be,” she said. “I’m thinking about going into social work but since there’s no social work programs at Princeton, this was really my opportunity.”
Disappointment notwithstanding, Raber said she feels PICS did “the best they could in light of the circumstances.”
“They’ve been really good about communication,” she said. “They always reply as fast as they can to my questions.”
Kezia Dickson ’23 was planning to participate in an IIP in Malaysia, conducting research at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. She believes the University handled the situation well.
“They offered to postpone my internship until next year and I know people who already bought plane tickets, and they’re getting them refunds,” she said. “I did not expect those two things to happen.”
Other international opportunities were similarly shuttered. Students enrolled in 2020 Global Seminars were informed on April 1 that all seminars had been canceled in an email from Director of Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) Stephen Kotkin.
“We plan to resume the seminars when conditions allow, hopefully for the summer 2021,” noted Kotkin. “Please look for announcements of future seminars, when we will again welcome your applications.”
Isaac Hart ’22, for whom the cancellation of his Global Seminar in Austria disrupts his academic plans, hopes to replace the seminar with online courses.
“I was planning on being able to take a class this summer,” he said. “The administration hasn’t announced yet whether they’ll be accepting online classes for credit.”