An undergraduate’s experience: Optimism amidst uncertainty

“I’m supposed to graduate by December 2021 after studying for three and half years with one semester spent on overseas exchange,” shared Cecilia Kan, 23, an undergraduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS). “I was due to fly to South Korea in late February this year but COVID-19 escalated that month and the exchange was suspended.”

Cecilia was a working student but she left her part time job to prepare for her upcoming overseas exchange. When COVID-19 struck, the exchange programme was suspended and Cecilia had no choice but to take a leave of absence from school for five months until the next semester started. “At this point, I wasn’t doing anything – not studying, not working,” she recounted. “I was very worried that given my situation and the economic outlook, I would be unable to secure an internship. On top of that, the leave of absence meant I would be graduating in four years and not three and half.”

Cecilia decided not dwell on these setbacks and took matters into her own hands. In under a week, she edited her resume, crafted several cover letters, and reached out to the NUS career office for internship opportunities. With their help, Cecilia got acquainted with Kristin Bok, who managed to place her as a digital marketing intern in a multinational company. According to Cecilia, her interview, contract signing and onboarding were done smoothly and quickly, all under two weeks.

“Positivity kept me going. I soldiered on despite all the stress, anxiety and concerns, so I’m thankful for this internship opportunity. When my school offered summer classes to students affected by the exchange suspension, I also promptly signed up for them to still graduate in time.”

It felt like things were looking up for her but two weeks into her internship, Cecilia was faced with a new challenge—the mandatory work from home arrangement, which blurred the lines between work and home. To make the distinction, she followed strict working hours just like how she would on a regular day in the office. 

On the work front, she had barely gotten to know her team members and now, had to adapt to working remotely. She was also still trying to find her footing in digital marketing which was a new field for her. “It was difficult at the beginning. But thankfully, I was able to catch up by proactively asking my reporting manager questions during our weekly meetings.” 

Cecilia served her internship from March to August and achieved what she set out to do—learn about digital marketing. She also took with her some fun memories only made possible by the pandemic, like her virtual team bonding sessions and their shared experience of working from home.

She is now back on campus awaiting the new semester that will start in mid-January 2021. The year has been full of curveballs so she plans to take things slow next year to just focus on her studies and work towards scoring a summer internship, in hopes of a full-time conversion thereafter.

Looking back, Cecilia is glad she made the best out of the situation. “I think being prepared, agile and resilient are my key takeaways from this pandemic. Having a positive mindset really helped me pull through everything. I believe that although you can plan ahead, you can never plan for uncertainty, so the best is to work with what you have and be open to unexpected opportunities that would come your way.”

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