Students respond to lack of learning experiences

COVID-19 disrupts internship opportunities at UW-Eau Claire

Zane Klavina

More stories from Zane Klavina


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Stahl said she was very excited to learn about the medical side of social work from her internship at Mayo Clinic.

In addition to face-to-face instruction at UW-Eau Claire, most internships have been discontinued for the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, students struggle to find new experiential opportunities for the summer.

Savana Stahl, a fourth-year social work student, said she learned a lot from her internship at Mayo Clinic before it was canceled in March.

“I was really excited to learn more about the medical side of social work,” Stahl said. “I worked with different patients every day and learned a ton about the paperwork that goes into hospital visits, which is something a lot of people overlook.”

Stahl said she had a couple of weeks left at her internship, but Mayo Clinic decided to cancel all of their internships before UW-Eau Claire pulled interns out of their sites.

“We thought we were prepared before, but nobody anticipated as large of a pandemic as it ended up being,” Stahl said.

Stahl said she was stressed to find alternate internships. The university social work department was able to help her find an opportunity with Feed My People food bank that later offered her a temporary job, she said.

“I worked there for less than two weeks as an intern and then the university canceled all internships on their end,” Stahl said. “Now I am only a temporary employee until the end of May.”

Stahl said she was excited to get the opportunity to go back and provide her help by doing modified field activities.

Catey Leonardson, a fourth-year English rhetoric student, had a technical writing internship on campus that also got discontinued due to COVID-19.

“Initially I kept going to campus, because I was told we had the option to,” Leonardson said. “Then, I made the decision myself not to go anymore for safety and health reasons.”

Leonardson said she is doing some of the work remotely and still getting income. However, she is frustrated to not receive the technical writing experience that she needs before graduation.

“I was planning on finding a job and moving away from Eau Claire this summer,” Leonardson said. “But it’s really difficult, given the current situation.”

Gorana Puzovic, a first-year neuroscience student from Serbia, joined a research project in crystallography back in February. She was assigned to work on the project this semester and continue throughout the summer.

“We were supposed to do most of our research this summer and get trained on how to use some of the lab equipment,” Puzovic said. “Now it is postponed until we can go back to campus.”

Puzovic said her research group still holds weekly meetings online, but even with those meetings, she has lost valuable time and the opportunity to learn something completely different from her current field of study.

“Going into college, I was debating whether to pursue a major in chemistry or neuroscience,” Puzovic said. “This could have been an opportunity to potentially switch my major.”

Puzovic said she is going to stay in the U.S. until she can go back to campus to work on the research project or until it is safe to fly back home.

Stahl said the support from the UW-Eau Claire social work department has been very impactful and her professors are making sure students have the resources they need.

“Professors have been working with me and my peers individually,’’ Stahl said. “It is comforting to know that they really care about me as a person, not just a student.”

Stahl said this semester has been an important learning experience and has learned that she has more support than she thought. 

We are all in different situations, but we are all in this together, she said.

Klavina can be reached at [email protected].