Interning Abroad from the Bedroom Office

IIP is as eager as everyone else to hop on a flight and experience the thrill, frequent confusion, and enlightenment of cultural immersion abroad. We’re excited to send students out into the world once again when it’s safe to do so! In the meantime, students continue to virtually intern with organizations around the globe. Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, many students paired part-time virtual international internships with their classes.

IIP spoke with two UW-Madison students who participated in virtual internships during the spring semester: Emily Arneson with the International University Exchange Center (IUEC) in South Korea and Grace Colvin (pictured above left) with Xross Connect in Spain. The students discussed their work and what they’ve learned from their virtual time abroad.

Until in-person internships can be offered again, IIP is offering virtual international opportunities for the summer and fall. Search for opportunities and apply here: 

A springboard to future career opportunities

Rising senior Grace Colvin is a double major in Marketing and International Business with a Spanish Studies for Business Students certificate. Grace spent the spring semester with Xross Connect, a boutique sales, marketing, and management services provider.

International Internship Program: How did you decide to pursue the opportunity with Xross Connect?

Grace Colvin: I decided to pursue the Xross Connect internship so I could learn more about what a career in marketing entails. I wanted to grow my skills, as well as see if marketing is a good long-term fit for me.

IIP: What did you learn about working for a small international startup?

GC: I learned that curiosity and excitement is key! The great thing about working for a small firm is the wide range of projects you get to work on. I was able to work with clients from around the world and I learned so much about many different industries.

IIP: Is there a particular skill or skills you developed through your internship?

GC: I improved my communication skills! These were especially important as my managers were in another time zone across the world!

IIP: How did this internship make you think about your future career?

GC: It allowed me to work with real clients and real companies and see what all goes into helping a business grow. This knowledge will be invaluable in any career I pursue.

IIP: What advice do you have for students considering virtual international internships?

GC: Virtual international internships can be such an amazing experience! Don’t be afraid to tell your managers what you would like to learn and what interests you, to make your experience the best it can be!

Practicing English and discussing ice cream

Emily Arneson, a rising junior majoring in Political Science and English with a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, virtually interned during the spring semester with IUEC, a South Korean company that offers English language classes and helps support Korean students applying to schools and colleges in Wisconsin.

IIP: How did you decide to pursue this opportunity?

Emily Arneson: I am planning to become an ESL instructor post-graduation; therefore, the internship opportunity through IUEC allowed me to gain relevant teaching skills and experience. Since I am also aiming to teach in different countries, I wanted to gain experience working with different cultures and backgrounds.

IIP: Some of the most amazing moments for student abroad happen through cultural immersion and engagement. How have you been able to get a feel for the culture, even though you’re not on the ground in South Korea? What have you learned?

EA: During my classes with the students, there was often plenty of time for open conversations between the two of us to allow the students to practice their conversational English skills. Students often took this opportunity to ask about life in the United States. Through these encounters I was able to gain newfound cross-cultural knowledge as I often encouraged students to talk about their life in contrast. I learned a lot through these conversations, even if they were minor pieces of cultural insight. For instance, they don’t have cookie dough ice cream!

IIP: Is there a particular skill or skills you developed through your internship?

EA: Since this internship was my first formal teaching experience, I believe I gained a lot of relevant teaching skills. A particular skill I developed was my confidence, especially in regards to teaching. I was nervous at first since it was my first time teaching, and I did not know how I will perform as a teacher. But as the classes went on, I became more comfortable in my leadership role in the classroom.

IIP: What advice do you have for students considering virtual international internships?

EA: I personally found virtual international internships extremely beneficial because I was drawn to the work and its outcomes. Although working in-person at the program location would have been enjoyable, I would still have the same work experience. However, if you are seeking direct cultural immersion opportunities, virtual international internships may not be the right fit for you.