Global pandemics surely do not act in favor of studying abroad — just ask any student whose experience was ultimately brought to a halt in March. Months later, countries around the world are still confronting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving future abroad opportunities tentative. In the wake of this matter, the University of Connecticut’s Education Abroad program recently hosted its virtual global internship launch, where students can remotely work with international companies based on their aspiring field. Opportunities stem from seven major cities including Dublin, Paris, Prague, Madrid, Florence, London and Washington, D.C.
Each internship will be hosted by a variety of organizations specialized in providing academic abroad experiences. For those interested in working in Madrid, for example, internships will be offered through EUSA, “a non-profit educational organization that works with colleges to create for-credit academic programs across Europe.” Almendra Staffa-Healey, director of EUSA, and Lea Girasole, the university relations manager, gave insight about the program during the informational session for Madrid.
The influential benefits of a virtual internship may be questionable compared to in-person programs. However, both Staffa-Healey and Girasole managed to debunk this notion.
“When we started, there were jobs that no longer exist, and three years from now, there’s gonna be jobs that still haven’t been invented,” Staffa-Healey said. “So we really like working with our students to help them achieve experience, exchange, reflection and growth.”
To aid this information, Girasole touched upon the statistical results of internship alumni.
“A recent alumni survey shows that an overwhelming percentage of our alumni gained adaptability, global fluency and improved their professionalism and work ethic,” Girasole said. “And that’s something that can still be translated in a virtual setting as well.”
Academic-wise, internships will count as four UConn credits made up of a three-credit course and a single-credit course. Interdisciplinary Internship Field Experience (UNIV 3991) requires 120 hours of online internship work while International Study: Workplace Reflective Practice (UNIV 3993) includes 15 hours of coursework as part of an online seminar hosted by each organization.
The concept of virtual global internships is understandably unfamiliar to most, which is likely why Education Abroad made sure to add a student perspective panel in their presentation schedule. Hosted by Valerie Jenkelunas, one of the Education Abroad advisors, the session allowed current global interns to discuss their experiences of working from home as well as advise potential applicants.
When asked about what compelled her to participate in a virtual internship, Lily DeBlasio, an eighth-semester political science major on a pre-law track, gave a detailed answer about how interning at a London-based company has advantaged her academic plan.
“Since I’m graduating, I need to find a job next semester,” DeBlasio said. “So the experience that I have and the skills that I’m learning in this internship is something that’s going on my resume, it’s something that I’m going to be talking about in interviews. It’s extremely important to my career and also again the class component of it is kind of the academic side. I know we have a journal entry due in a few days, so that reflective aspect is also super helpful because it’s forcing us to think constructively about what we’ve learned and how we can use that later on.”
For further details regarding virtual global internships and to view the informational sessions for each city, make sure to visit the Education Abroad website.