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story.lead_photo.caption In this photo made available by Tobias Bidstrup, Tobias Bidstrup takes a selfie in Taipei, Taiwan on March 18, 2020 during a language study trip. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Tobias Bidstrup, a third-year international business student at Copenhagen University, had a summer internship lined up at Procter & Gamble’s London offices this summer but chose to defer it for a year rather than do a virtual version after the pandemic hit. (Tobias Bidstrup via AP)

LONDON -- Yadeen Rashid was flying high in February. He'd just earned stellar grades in his latest semester at Virginia Tech university, where he's in his third year double majoring in economics and political science. And he'd just landed a summer internship at a data analysis company.

Then the pandemic hit, triggering lockdown restrictions and pushing the U.S. economy into recession. Many companies canceled their internships programs and rescinded job offers -- including NTT Data, where Rashid was set to intern.

"I was really upset, not just because finding an internship is hard, but because I actually was very excited to work with them very specifically," said Rashid, 21. He said he bears no ill-will to the company and is looking for other internship opportunities. "But, you know, as time goes on, it gets a little less optimistic."

Rashid's experience shows how the global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, an important steppingstone to working life for many university students and recent graduates.

Half of all internship openings in the U.S. have been cut since the pandemic outbreak, and 64% of those in the U.K., according to research by Glassdoor, the career website. Hundreds of companies, including AirBnb, FedEx, Gap and Walt Disney Co., have scrapped their summer programs, according to an online database.

Companies use summer internships as a pipeline for recruiting graduates while young people benefit from exposure to real working life. They can serve as a source of income or a graduation requirement.

More than 1 in every 6 young workers globally have stopped working during the pandemic, the International Labor Organization said last month. The U.N. labor agency added that the pandemic's long-term fallout could lead to a "lockdown generation" scarred throughout their working lives.

Some companies are making their internships virtual -- mirroring the work-from-home trend that's swept office life during the pandemic.

E-commerce giant Amazon is hiring more than 8,000 interns for its summer program, which it's turning into "a virtual model."

Global consulting firm EY said more than half of its 15,000 internships this year will be in virtual formats. Interns will be assigned a "peer counselor," someone who joined the company in the past two years, as well as a more senior "reporting counselor" who will both regularly check in on them, said Trent Henry, EY's global vice chairman of talent.

At The Associated Press, some internships will either likely be done remotely, some deferred until next year and others have been canceled.

One benefit of a traditional internship -- networking -- is harder to do virtually but companies are trying to help. Amazon is providing mentoring and weekly "fireside" chats via remote video conferencing.

U.S. air conditioner maker Lennox's 54 summer interns can join lunchtime talks with senior executives by video conference. The company still wants to treat them to a good lunch so it's considering sending them gift cards to buy food, said recruiter Lexie Williams.

Those who have done virtual internships say it's a way to learn remote working skills that are more important now that the coronavirus has changed how people work.

Recent graduate Sahar Shabani, 22, did a three-month remote internship with a development charity in Thailand from her parents' home in South London.

Shabani applied in February through Queen Mary University of London, where she earned a bachelor's degree in politics and international relations. She checked in by phone every day with her supervisor, who assigned her to research and write reports about topics such as corporate social responsibility and then give video presentations on them using Zoom.

"Whether it was in person or not, you still gained those skills or valuable experience," she said. "It's a new way of experiencing work."

Catarina Silva, 22, is doing a part-time virtual internship with an Asia-based social enterprise through Aston University in Birmingham, England, as part of her master's degree. Silva, who returned to her parents' home in Porto, Portugal, spends her mornings working on her dissertation and afternoons building a donor database and working on strategy for the foundation.

She says she's getting used to the unstructured nature of working from home.

"That means, for example, night owls could work after midnight, she said. "There are a lot of people in my generation that like that flexibility."

Silva, who has already lined up a job after graduation with the consultancy Accenture, said she'd like to work in an office, "but at the same time, you will always have to know how to work remotely."

She has done two previous in-person summer internships, at a bank and a fashion chain in Portugal, and acknowledges that interning remotely makes it harder to network.

"It's good when you go to the office and meet people and have lunch with them, so you build human connections," Silva said. "With a virtual internship that's more difficult."

Universities with work placement or study abroad programs have scrambled to replace them with remote options, said Edward Holroyd-Pearce, president of Virtual Internships, a British firm that helped arrange Silva's and Shabani's programs and specializes in Asia.

"We've seen a huge demand because of coronavirus," said Pearce. The number of students his company has placed has jumped 10-tenfold this year, with inquiries coming from the U.S., Britain, Australia, the Middle East and many other countries, he said.

Still, the remote option doesn't appeal to everyone.

Tobias Bidstrup, a third-year international business student at Copenhagen Business School, was offered an internship at Procter & Gamble's London offices this summer. But after the pandemic hit Europe, the company offered to let interns to do it virtually or defer it for a year. Bidstrup, 21, chose to wait.

"Starting at a new company, doing the internship and you're meeting people and being introduced to new tasks and also getting to know how the culture is at a company -- I think that's really difficult to do virtually compared to doing it in person at the office," he said.

This photo made available by Catarina Silva shows Catarina Silva in Porto, Portugal on Monday June 15, 2020. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Catarina Silva, 22, is doing a part-time virtual internship from her parents’ home in Porto, Portugal with an Asia-based social enterprise through Aston University in Birmingham, England, as part of her master’s degree. (Catarina Silva via AP)
This photo made available by Catarina Silva shows Catarina Silva in Porto, Portugal on Monday June 15, 2020. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Catarina Silva, 22, is doing a part-time virtual internship from her parents’ home in Porto, Portugal with an Asia-based social enterprise through Aston University in Birmingham, England, as part of her master’s degree. (Catarina Silva via AP)
In this photo made available by Yadeen Rashid, Yadeen Rashid poses for a photo in Laurel, Maryland USA. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Yadeen Rashid, third year student at Virginia Tech university, is one of many young people who have had their summer internships canceled because of the pandemic. (Yadeen Rashid via AP)
In this photo made available by Yadeen Rashid, Yadeen Rashid poses for a photo in Laurel, Maryland USA. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Yadeen Rashid, third year student at Virginia Tech university, is one of many young people who have had their summer internships canceled because of the pandemic. (Yadeen Rashid via AP)
In this photo taken on Thursday, June 11, 2020, recent university graduate Sahar Shabani poses for a photograph in London. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Recent graduate Sahar Shabani, 22, did a three-month remote internship with a development charity based in Thailand from her parents' home in South London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
In this photo taken on Thursday, June 11, 2020, recent university graduate Sahar Shabani poses for a photograph in London. The global coronavirus crisis, which has already thrown much of the business world into turmoil, is also disrupting summer internships, which are an important stepping stone to working life for many university students and recent graduates and a recruiting pipeline for companies. Recent graduate Sahar Shabani, 22, did a three-month remote internship with a development charity based in Thailand from her parents' home in South London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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