Field Work Term & COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges to the world of work. We know that these challenges impact each student differently, based on personal factors, location, and fields of interest. In light of this, the 2021 Field Work Term emphasizes a flexible timeframe and flexible options (particularly remote options) so that students may prioritize their health and safety while still having meaningful professional experiences. We are eager to be in conversation with you about your needs, preferences, and the field work options available to you.
Flexible Timeframe and Options
To allow students to pursue a broad array of work-learning experiences, and in recognition of the challenges posed by COVID-19, students have the flexibility to complete their annual work experience during several possible timeframes. These include the winter and summer Field Work Term periods, the dates of which are found here. We know that many students will prefer to defer their field work to the summer, and this option will be approved for all students who request it. Students may also propose to complete their field work over the course of an academic year, through a campus job that meets the criteria of an FWT site. At any time in the year, students may also complete hours toward their FWT requirement through remote internships, or through short-term, paid remote projects known as microinternships.
International students please be advised that during the academic term, you are not permitted to work more than 20 hours per week across all jobs and internships, including on-campus employment. As always, you must consult with International Student Services to obtain Curricular Practical Training work authorization approval for any remote internships and microinternships, and the experience must be integral to your major course of study and registered and approved for FWT. International students must have CPT work authorization approval before they begin working. CPT cannot be issued retroactively. In addition, international students studying on-campus are eligible for work authorization (CPT) after they complete one full academic year (two semesters at Bennington). This means that first year international students are not able to accept remote internships or microinternships before Summer 2021.
There are also a range of field work options that students may pursue, based on personal and health-related needs and preferences, and recognizing that in certain sectors traditional internships are more competitive than usual. Alternatives to traditional internships include: remote or "virtual" internships, multiple microinternships, College-sponsored fellowships, online professional trainings, eligible on-campus employment, and independent study with a faculty member. Keep in mind that a well-crafted resume and cover letter are critical in a saturated internship market. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with us for feedback on application materials and mock interviews.
Remote Work or On-Site Work
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year we anticipate that the majority of students will complete remote FWT experiences and/or will choose to complete their field work in the summer. All students who prefer to pursue a remote field work experience are encouraged to do so; no special approval is required, and remote positions will be approved as long as they meet the standard requirements of a Field Work Term site.
Remote internships have become increasingly common. Check out our Remote Internship Guide for tips on landing a remote internship and making the most of your experience. In Handshake, you can use the "remote work allowed" label to search remote FWT positions and remote general internships. You can also use our new tool Parker Dewey to apply for paid, remote freelance projects known as "microinternships." (Note: Many microinternships are competitive, so we recommend scheduling a virtual resume and cover letter review appointment before applying.)
Additionally, there are many free online professional trainings that students can complete for all or part of their FWT hours. Professional trainings are a great way to enhance your resume in a challenging employment landscape. All Bennington College students can obtain free access to Lynda.com's trainings and courses by registering for a McCullough Library account. Other platforms such as EdX and Coursera offer some entirely free courses, and the ability to "audit" courses for free. See our Professional Training Option page for details on the types of trainings that can count for FWT, and how to log your hours.
If you are considering on-site work, please note that it is your full responsibility to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions, as the College is not able to make this assessment for individual worksites. This includes but is not limited to: researching the official safety recommendations specific to your location, consulting with your family and/or considering against personal factors, and discussing site-specific safety issues with your prospective employer. Details are available in the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, which all students sign as part of their Field Work Term registration. Though students may pursue on-site work experiences if they feel comfortable doing so after carefully evaluating the risks, they are encouraged to consider the flexible alternatives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to new restrictions on international travel. Given the US State Department's current COVID-19 Traveler Information, at this moment Field Work Term experiences outside of the US will generally not be approved, except for in a student's home country. (Understanding that some international students may have special circumstances that justify completing their FWT somewhere other than the US or their home country, limited exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.)
International students wishing to travel home for FWT are strongly encouraged to speak with International Student Services to discuss potential concerns related to re-entry into the US. As always, students will be required to sign the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, and are responsible for researching and staying up-to-date on the visa regulations and health and safety information relevant to the country they are proposing to visit.
We know there is a lot to think about when considering what field work type and timeframe are right for you. We encourage you to meet with us to discuss options. Whether you are learning on-campus or remotely, you can book an FWT Advising Appointment here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are employers still offering internships?
Yes. Field Work Term internships from our network of employer partners are posted in Handshake for winter and summer 2021, and will continue to be posted throughout the year. These are in addition to hundreds of Handshake internship listings not specific to the Field Work Term program, microinternship opportunities, and positions that students may find through other online research or personal contacts.
That said, the internship market in many industries has become more competitive than before. We are here to support you in securing a meaningful professional experience in this challenging time. Students are strongly encouraged to make use of our online resources to guide you in searching, applying, and interviewing for opportunities, and to meet with us for further support.
I prefer to work remotely for personal and/or health reasons. Can I do that?
Yes. We know that remote experiences are preferable for many students and employers at this time. Remote internships, microinternships, and online professional trainings will be approved as long as they meet the standard requirements of a Field Work Term site. Check out our Remote Internship Guide to understand the unique benefits and challenges of remote internships and how to secure one, and check out our Professional Training Option page for details on completing free online professional trainings for Field Work Term.
I want to complete an on-site work experience that I found on my own. Can I do that?
Yes, with important caveats. If you are considering an on-site work experience, it is your full responsibility to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions. This includes but is not limited to: researching the official safety recommendations specific to your location, consulting with your family and/or considering against personal factors, and discussing site-specific safety issues with your prospective employer. Details on the student's responsibilities are available in the Release, Waiver, and Acknowledgement of Risk Statement, which all students sign as part of their Field Work Term registration. No student will be required to complete on-site work, and remote work is an available option for anyone who prefers it.
I found an advertised Field Work Term position on Handshake that is on-site. Will I still be able to complete this experience despite the pandemic?
It depends. Field Work Term employers offering on-site internships have been advised of their responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace according to official public health guidance. Depending on the state of the pandemic in the months ahead, some may choose to rescind their internships or convert them to remote. However, even for Field Work Term internships listed on Handshake, it remains the full responsibility of the student to research the health and safety risks and appropriate precautions when considering whether an on-site internship is right for you. See the question above for further details.
I deferred my 2020 Field Work Term to summer 2021 due to the pandemic. Does that mean I need to complete two Field Work Term experiences in 2021?
In most cases, yes. Please note that you have the option to complete both experiences during the winter, summer, or over the course of the academic year. For example, you might choose to complete one 200-hour experience in the winter and one in the summer; or, an approved FWT-eligible campus job plus a 200-hour experience in the summer; or, two experiences totaling 400 hours over the summer. If you'd like help thinking through your options, schedule a meeting with us.
Are students studying remotely still required to complete a field work experience?
Yes. Students studying remotely may be particularly interested in pursuing remote internships, microinternships, or online professional trainings. Additionally, students are always encouraged to use their past experiences and personal connections to find a position in their hometown. As always, all of our office's resources—from Handshake, to our web resources, to advising meetings—are available to you whether you are studying remotely or on-campus.
What due dates do I need to know about? I'm worried that I won't have my Field Work Term plans figured out by the proposal due date. Will I be penalized?
All Field Work Term due dates for the year are listed here. The Field Work Term Proposal is intended to help you start thinking about the field work type and timeframe that would best serve your needs and learning goals, and to help our office understand your interests so that we can support you. You do not need to have a position secured by this date, and you will not be penalized if your Field Work Term plans change.
Are there any changes to the expectations for employers?
Workplace expectations for students and employers are outlined in the Student-Employer Agreement. The employer's responsibilities are largely the same as in previous years, though we have clarified the best practices for remote supervision.
What happens if my internship offer is withdrawn, or if I need to withdraw from my internship, due to circumstances related to the pandemic?
We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has created tumultuous circumstances in the world of work, and in many students' personal lives. If your internship is canceled or withdrawn, we will work with you to help you secure an alternative position or to consider a deferral of your FWT requirement. As always, no student will be penalized if they must change or defer their FWT due to health issues, safety concerns, or personal emergencies. The important thing is to communicate with us about any issues so that we may collaborate with you to navigate them.