A college internship is a rite of passage for many students. It’s that moment when students begin to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to the “real world.”
An internship can be an affirmation for students whose experience deepens their passion for their chosen path, and it can inspire a new direction for others. Internships statistically increase a student’s chance of being hired upon graduation. In fact, at the Student Success Center in the College of Charleston’s School of Business, 60 percent of student-interns are offered full-time employment.
Chloe Heiligenstein is one of those students. As a commercial real estate finance major with a finance minor, she accepted a summer internship with the Charleston branch of real estate firm Colliers International with the goal of gaining experience in commercial real estate. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Heiligenstien, who is a rising senior, spent much of the internship working from home – which had its challenges – but the experience offered her collaboration with real estate professionals and reassured her that she was on the right path. When the city re-opened in May, Heiligenstein was able to return to the office and immerse herself in Colliers’ day-to-day operations.
“During the COVID quarantine, I ended up doing a lot of research on the Charleston market, which is paying off since I am starting to get a good grasp of the geographic area,” she says. “Now, back in the office, it’s been beneficial because I’ve been able to listen to calls with clients, see how the brokers interact with other brokers and learn how to make information valuable within my team.”
At the start of the summer, the College initialized a policy that encouraged internship programs to shift to a virtual platform to promote social distancing. This way students could still participate in the internship and gain knowledge remotely. Amy Solomon, assistant director of internships and operations for the School of Business’ Student Success Center, says the transition was challenging.
“Interns were asked to adjust to not being in an actual professional setting and to the new norm of working from home as well as the new world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams. But between our wonderful faculty supervisors and department chairs, the director of summer programs, the provost, our legal and public health departments and the registrar’s office, we still have School of Business students that are gaining an invaluable experience. We still maintained our numbers with 24 interns in the summer of 2020 compared to 28 interns in the summer of 2019, which is positive considering the drastic changes students have faced this year.”
In the School of Business, students are encouraged to complete at least two to three internships during their college career. The first is usually completed after the student has enough business courses to work the internship for non-credit. Most students complete the last internship during their senior year for academic credit and are assigned to a faculty supervisor to them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the internship in their chosen profession. The School of Business has developed strong ties in the community, which has resulted in student-internships with companies including Bosch, the Medical University of South Carolina, Greystar and Spoleto Festival USA, among others.
“Gaining these valuable internship experiences greatly increases a student’s marketability and confidence, and gives him or her an edge over other candidates when applying for positions after graduation,” says Solomon.