College, COVID and Why Internships are More Important Than Ever

By: Bradley, Communications Intern

As we emerge from the pandemic, internships – even those that occur post-graduation – are more vital than ever to the success and competitiveness of a student. College is a time when relationships are formed, research is conducted and internships enable students to get the work experience entry-level jobs require. 

For me, leaving home for my final two years of college was tumultuous. I’d never lived away from home or had a roommate – let alone three. I’d never even made dinner for myself by the time I was heading up the coast to Goleta in the early fall of 2019 to start my junior year at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). I was nervous, but luckily, I was about to be in paradise. The gorgeous beaches, beautiful campus and vibrant student body instantly took me out of my shell. 

Then the pandemic started.   

I was thrown into a new, uncertain environment; my short-lived run in paradise crumbled as COVID-19 spread. At first, it seemed like a blessing. Finals were just kicking off when the University Chancellor barred in-person classes and my classmates and I were spared taking a pivotal exam to determine admittance into our major.  

By the time the next quarter kicked off, the world was in full lock down and with it came online school. At first, online school felt like another blessing. Less studying, more sleep and the ability to look up virtually anything in seconds – even during a lecture. While many students struggled with online-proctoring, I slipped by without worry. 

However, with time, my motivation sank, my attention slipped and my information retention was non-existent. As summer approached, and my first major final came up, I realized I was struggling to recall information I worked so hard to learn. This continued throughout my virtual college experience and while I studied hard and did well in my classes, online learning took away the ability to meet people, develop my network and get hands-on experience in my field of study. I didn’t feel fully prepared to launch my career. 

In June 2021, just weeks after graduating, I started my internship at The Toll Roads. 

My internship has given me the things COVID-induced virtual college couldn’t. I’ve refined skills I learned in school while learning from professionals with years of experience, knowledge and wisdom. I’ve been part of multiple creative projects, many of which I was given the opportunity to suggest, edit or create portions of and sometimes entire projects. From writing blog posts like this one, to conducting research for projects or setting up internal interviews, The Toll Roads have given me the tools, space, opportunities and guidance to grow.   

The Toll Roads’ culture, open workplace environment and diverse staff is unlike what I’ve experienced before. Nowhere else have I been able to work in a female majority and female-led department or rub shoulders with someone like our bright and forward-thinking CEO Samuel Johnson. Recently, I was lucky enough to sit down and have lunch with CEO Johnson. We shared thoughts and ideas for the Agencies’ future and advice for future jobs. I listened to everything he said, not wanting to forget a single word. And, something I didn’t expect, he listened to me and truly cared about what I had to say. 

Since joining TCA’s Communications department, I have gained a support system of skilled professionals who are excited to see my work and encourage me to have a voice. As a student during the pandemic, this work experience has been vital, not only as a Communications student but also as a young adult entering the workforce. Because of my internship opportunity at TCA, I am better equipped to begin a new post-school chapter of my life.  

Thankfully, I still have plenty of time to learn. 

The final and largest project of my internship was to produce a video highlighting The Toll Roads’ internship program and an my peers who are currently serving as interns. I’m really proud of the video and hope you’ll watch it here.  

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