From a Semester Abroad to a Virtual Classroom

Alex Rosenberg is a rising senior at Cornell University, majoring in Communications. She hails from Westchester, New York, but her COVID-19 experience began in Seville, Spain during her semester abroad. 

We got the chance to connect with Alex and hear about how her plans for the Spring Semester and Summer 2020 were turned upside down and how she learned to adapt to these changes and find a way to make the most of her situation.

When February 4th, 2020 finally arrived, Alex Rosenberg couldn’t contain her excitement. Alex was heading to Seville, Spain to study abroad for a full four months. And after her program in Seville ended on May 29th, Alex would immediately relocate to Washington, D.C. to begin her internship with Amazon Web Services on June 1st. Rosenberg recalls being “so excited for the quick turnaround and non stop movement.” 

COVID-19 seemed like a distant crisis to Alex, yet her mom, a doctor, thought otherwise. Alex recalls, “my mom wore an N95 mask to the airport and I thought she was crazy.” Alex’s perception of COVID completely changed in just five short weeks. 

In the early hours of March 12th, Alex remembers her floormate Emma shaking her awake saying that they “needed to leave immediately as the U.S. was planning to close the borders.” Six hours later, Alex was on a flight home to New York, holding onto hope that COVID would pass and she could return to Seville in April for the last two months of the semester. 

To Alex’s dismay, she could not return to Seville as the virus escalated into a pandemic and her courses moved online. Her study abroad program accommodated American students who were forced to return home to the states. The university held courses during time slots that worked with the United States’ daytime hours. While Alex was “disappointed to not have been able to spend more time learning with the local students and improving [her] Spanish,” she was grateful for the time she had in Seville. 

Shortly after her courses went virtual, Rosenberg learned that her internship was going virtual, too. Alex was not going to Washington, D.C. after all. It felt like “another nail in the coffin with this entire pandemic being super real, legit, and scary… I felt like I lost my time abroad and then my time in D.C.,” Alex expressed. “But I’m so fortunate to have an internship when I know so many were canceled.” 

Although her internship is entirely remote, Alex feels she is getting the same quality of professional experience. She meets weekly with her mentors and has the same structure and routine that she would have had if she was going to an office every day. Alex enjoys getting to know colleagues virtually and found it “easy to catch onto the company atmosphere because they had a lot of training and outlined very clear leadership principles that they follow to a T.” While Alex is getting first class professional experience, the only element the virtual internship cannot replace is “the social interaction that would’ve come with the internship had it been in person.” She expected to meet other interns during the training sessions, but unfortunately the sessions were too large to connect deeply and most people had their cameras turned off.

Working a remote internship at home with her parents and siblings was tough. It was hard to find privacy to stay focused and professional. So Alex opted to return to school and use her 4 bedroom apartment as her remote work home base. On the weekends, she enjoys the beautiful weather in Ithaca with her roommates, unwinding from the busy week prior. We hope you make it back to Seville and D.C. soon, Alex!