Will QU go back to LA?

William Dean, Contributing Writer

Quinnipiac University is tentatively giving “QU in LA” a green light for the spring 2021 semester after the program came to a screeching halt on March 14.

In the information session on Sept. 22, Jennifer Kalaidis, the director for QU in LA, said the program is an opportunity for students to step outside their comfort zones into an exciting business environment.

“It’s a great way for students to get some professional experience,” Kalaidis said. “Having experience on your resume on the other side of the country is really impressive to employers.”

The cornerstone of QU in LA is the opportunity to work at a company in the field students are studying. In previous semesters, students have interned at Sony Pictures, Disney, the Los Angeles Times and other well-known  organizations.

Whether the program returns in-person for the spring semester is still a major question. When asked if the program would continue in-person in the spring, Kalaidis said she could not comment on the matter. Quinnipiac will announce if students can travel to Los Angeles on Oct. 19.

The possibility of cancelling the program’s travel component is something that Kalaidis and other Quinnipiac leaders have planned for.

“Thankfully we got our trial run in last year, and I think certainly our program and the university in general and the public health system is a lot better,” Kalaidis said. “We ask students that they be aware that this is a flexible situation, same as it is on campus. Safety is always number one, and students will have to be accommodating to that.”

In March, in-person internships were cancelled and the 26 students in the program received an email recommending they leave Los Angeles by the end of the week.

Students’ plans, organized around working and studying, were quickly thrown into chaos. The new top priority was finding a way back home.

“Traveling back home was super last minute, so the biggest stressor was booking a new flight,” said Kayla Birmingham, a 3+1 business management major.

Birmingham, who traveled to Los Angeles to intern at interior design firm Harbinger, said that while leaving was the right thing to do, it was still upsetting. 

“When it set in that we actually had to physically leave the QU in LA program, I was heartbroken,” Birmingham said. “My time living and working in California was an absolute dream come true.”

The transition to interning remotely caused some problems as well. When Quinnipiac announced it would suspend in-person meetings, not all program members had completed the required number of credit hours for their internships. Kalaidis said some students had fulfilled this prerequisite but “the rest of the students had to complete it remotely.”

All 26 students returned home safely and received full credit for their internship and class work.

Sophomore 3+1 media studies major Lachie Harvey hoped to study in Los Angeles in the spring but chose to delay his application.

“The chaos going on in LA and California in general is really off-putting,” Harvey said. “Forest fires, protests and coronavirus is just too much.”

Harvey said the university’s lack of communication about the program wasn’t helpful when deciding to apply.

Another problem confronting students interested in QU in LA is the Los Angeles job market. While the city is slowly recovering from the pandemic-induced economic downturn, unemployment stood at 11.4% in August, according to California’s Employment Development Department. Though students will be entering a highly competitive job market, Kalaidis said that they have an edge over already-working professionals

“Generation Z, you really have a leg up with a lot of other workers in the sense of benign digital natives before this pandemic,” Kalaidis said. “I think students are coming in there being comfortable communicating online.”

While the program’s immediate future is unknown, later semesters are expected to see high student interest.

Harvey said he was “absolutely” planning on participating in the program later in his college career.

“I’m considering living in Los Angeles when I’ve graduated, and I wanted to use the semester as a taste test of sorts,” Harvey said. “It’s way too good of an opportunity to go.”

For Harvey, the opportunity to intern at a professional film production company is the most appealing aspect of the QU in LA program.

Although her in-person experience was cut short, Birmingham said she would “do it all over again in a heartbeat” and that she recommends students consider the program. She said the opportunity to work alongside professionals in a dream job is “so valuable” and can not be found anywhere else.

“An internship is so powerful and teaches what you like and dislike about working in the real world in terms of culture and the actual work you’re completing,” Birmingham said. “Be eager to soak up the knowledge.”