Students adapt summer plans, find new opportunities during social distancing


Berk Oto

60% of U-High student respondents lost their summer job or activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Pu, News Editor

Despite canceled and postponed programs worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has not stopped students from planning a productive summer break that maintains social distancing.


Internships including SummerLink programs for business, social sciences and humanities have been affected. Out of 29 internship positions, 11 were canceled and 18 moved online according to librarian Susan Augustine, who co-facilitates the SummerLink programs. 

Sophomore Saul Arnow’s internship will be moved online, and he will work with Chang Tai Hsieh, the Phyllis and Irwin Winkelried Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“I’m really excited that it’s going to go forward because I know some of the internships have been canceled as a result, so I feel really lucky that mine is still going forward,” Saul said, “but at the same time, I do feel a little disappointed because it won’t be quite the level of immersion.”

Outside of SummerLink, the Astro-Science Workshop at the Adler Planetarium may also move online. Participants including junior Aanika Atluri applied to learn about electronic hardware, computer programming, computer-aided design and data analysis in preparation for a high-altitude balloon launch. 

“It was a very hands-on focused program, so it’s going to be very different because if they move it online, it’s still going to be very collaborative, but we won’t have that hands-on component that the workshop was built around,” Aanika said. 

Aanika has participated in high-altitude balloon launches in the past, but with the skills taught by the workshop, she planned to conduct a meaningful experiment. 

“I haven’t really been able to do much more than just getting pictures because I don’t necessarily have the skill background or the equipment that they need to conduct these cooler experiments,” Aanika said, “so this program is a way for me to get more of those skills and learn how to conduct these in a more scientific way.” 

Senior Jenna Nimer is part of the Chicago EYES on Cancer program University of Chicago for high school and college students. For two consecutive years, participants work in the laboratory and discuss scientific journals.

“My next four years, I’m planning on being pre-med and eventually med school, so I was looking forward to the summer to be able to learn a lot more laboratory techniques,” said Jenna, who will attend the University of Chicago. 

Although Jenna will not be pipetting in the laboratory, she said she will continue discussing journals and complete 40 hours of work a week remotely.



In addition to internships, many camps that depend on hands-on experiences, and in-person interactions have been canceled.

Ninth grader Charlie Benton has attended Camp Chi Jewish Overnight Camp in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, for the past eight summers. Due to the pandemic, the camp was canceled for the first time since 1921, but Charlie plans to attend the counselor-in-training program that works with kids in special education and has not been officially canceled.

“I’ve always since I was younger been really passionate about making sure everyone has an equal opportunity at that camp,” Charlie said. 

Ninth grader Yaseen Qureshi shares a similar situation as Charlie. Yaseen has attended Summer Lab since first grade and River Garden Summer Camp for the past two years, but both programs have been canceled.

For Summer Lab, Yaseen planned to serve as a math teaching assistant under Julia Kornienko who has taught Yaseen at Summer Lab in the past, but with the cancelation, Yaseen applied to tutor students online. 

Reflecting on not being able to attend River Garden this year, Yaseen said, “It’s a really fun time where you just get to bond and learn a bit more about our religion. Sadly, that was canceled as well, which of course was a huge bummer for us.”


Adapting to the pandemic

Although she may not conduct the high-altitude balloon launch, Aanika decided to start a free online tutoring program with her friend Anya Shaw, a junior who attends Hinsdale Central High School. Middle schoolers at Butler Junior High School in Oak Brook will have a chance to attend group Zoom sessions to catch up on material they missed during remote learning. 

“We actually planned this during social distancing, and we thought it would be a really good opportunity to help kids that are falling behind or struggling,” Aanika said. 

Junior Jayne Crouthamel planned to attend Camp Neuro and the 16th National Conference on Hydrocephalus to learn about neuroscience, which she said she plans to pursue as a career. Camp Neuro was recently canceled, and the National Conference on Hydrocephalus was moved online.

I think it’s really good that they decided to move it online because we’ll get some of the experience as opposed to none of it at all.

— Jayne Crouthamel

Jayne said, “I think it’s really good that they decided to move it online because we’ll get some of the experience as opposed to none of it at all.”

With extra time, Jayne plans to look into online courses at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, and she said she will have more time to write rough drafts for college application essays.

Although Jenna lost a summer to work in the laboratory, she said she looks forward to learning other skills.

Jenna said, “I’m kind of looking at it in the sense that now I’m going to be able to learn a whole different set of skills because something that I’m really interested in also doing is like learning a little bit more about data science.”