University in the Time of COVID-19

Hello, It's Isaac. Today I’m chatting with Jaemin, who is currently a mathematics student at the University of Waterloo going into his third year. Am curious to see how Jaemin’s remote internship is going and what he thinks about being a student during these times.

Hey Jeamin! How are you finding your third year of undergraduate study during COVID-19?

There’s definitely upsides and downsides to doing everything from home. Courses definitely feel slightly easier and it feels like you have a lot more time to pursue things that interest you outside of school. The downside is that it’s definitely harder to connect with school content with the lack of in-person lectures and group work and such. Content I learn in online school disappears faster in my head compared to knowledge acquired in-person.

I heard that you are doing a remote internship right now, how does that fit into your work schedule? How are you finding the remote workplace?

Yep! I’m currently doing a part-time remote internship while I’m doing school and it’s not bad at all. I definitely have times where I have to make small compromises on both fronts but it’s definitely more than doable. Working remotely has been great as well. Given the situation, being able to see my coworkers online from my home is a good balance between productivity and social interaction. Am excited about what remote internships could mean in terms of opening up opportunities for me anywhere in the world.

Would you say that internship experience is valuable? From what I understand, your current internship is not your first one.

I would say that internships are 100% valuable for any student who wants to explore their future options. Apart from the obvious positives such as job experience for your career or compensation, I’d say internships are an opportunity for curious students to get their feet wet exploring a field. I personally think that the best way to gauge your passion for a field is to find an internship for it.

I understand that you are taking courses outside of school as well? What motivated you to do so many extracurriculars? Do you think this is becoming the norm?

I take courses outside of school for many reasons, but I would say career expectations and self-improvement are the largest motivators. I think it’s always good to do extracurricular prepping for whatever you’re interested in. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be sitting through online courses - it could also mean starting some projects on your own time. As a math student looking into a few different fields, I’ve started some small initiatives on my own time. Currently, I’m self-studying web development and hope to finish a personal website soon. Also, I’m also running a small video production firm that specialises in personal video production. What you specifically do doesn’t matter - just find a niche that you’re interested in and see what projects you can start! In a computer science or design-related program? Work on your portfolio and side projects! I do definitely feel that this is starting to become the norm for many students. A lot of my friends have a small side project or gig they’re working on.

I can’t help but notice that your extracurriculars and your major are highly centred around the acquisition of hard skills. Is this where your passion lies?

I personally believe that it’s harder to learn “soft skills” than hard skills, since the path to improving your communication and networking skills is definitely less straightforward than sitting through some videos and writing down notes. I think I’m focused on the hard skills right now because I believe the qualifications from learning those skills will open a lot of opportunities in the future, and I’ll have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate and practice my soft skills when that time comes. Once you get your foot in the door with your hard skills, you’ll have the opportunity to develop and showcase your soft skills. And to be honest with you, I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to differentiate between the two anyhow - it seems to me, that skilling - hard and soft - is going to be in the cards for me for the rest of my career.

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