Virtual global internships help students develop old and new skill sets

As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe over the spring and summer, it impacted countless plans and programs. Among them were students taking part in the Farmer School’s Global Studies program, who found themselves unable to travel overseas. “Typically, we offer in-person internships during the summer, but that obviously wasn't possible this year,” Assistant Director of Global Business Programs Emily Akil explained.  “So when we couldn't run our fall semester programs either, we needed to find something that we could quickly move to.”

What Global Studies found was a partnership with a pair of companies to offer virtual global internships for fall 2020 and spring 2021. More than two dozen FSB students signed up for the program and chose whether they wanted to be assigned their internship based on where it was located or the career field it was in.

“For example, students that have been studying Mandarin and really wanted to work with a Chinese company would be guaranteed a placement with a Chinese company or a China-based company in one of their top-three career fields,” Akil said. “A student wanting to have a marketing-related internship would be guaranteed a marketing internship with a company or firm in one of their three top choices of countries.”

Thanks to the Roger L. Jenkins International Scholarship, each of the interns are Jenkins Global Scholars and received scholarships of up to $2,000.

Because of the obvious time-zone differences between the interns and their employers, the students who take the internships have to be self-starters and capable of working well remotely. “Students work 10 hours per week, and most of those hours are project based and unstructured time. So they'll overlap a couple hours with their supervisor, or maybe join in on team meetings, but then they're working on projects often on their own,” Akil noted. “So it takes a lot of individual skills to be able to work through the experience successfully. It’s going to require that our students are flexible and adaptable, but also really self-sufficient.”

Junior accountancy major Alex Stan is interning with BitBoom Fund Management in China. “The internship has been going great! I am quickly learning a lot about international finance specifically in regard to blockchain and private equity funds,” he remarked. “I am also learning a lot about Chinese business culture and how it compares/differs from that of the US. Overall, the experience has been valuable and I am excited to continue through the journey.”

"This virtual internship has provided me extremely unique opportunities so far this semester. In just four weeks, I've gained experience in creating AI-driven chatbots using Google Dialogflow, as well as created a high-level marketing campaign for an upcoming software product launch for my host company, EVO Creations,” junior marketing and analytics major Tom Hemsworth remarked. “Overall I believe I am getting a great deal out of this internship and can see my hard work going to good use.”

“I have been able to develop skills that have transformed me into both a better business professional and a better student. By directly communicating with executive officers and working closely with the CEO, I have acquired unique experiences and skills are that hard to come by anywhere else.  I am excited to continue with my internship and hope to learn even more so that I can become a successful and valuable finance professional," sophomore finance major Raj Malik said about his time so far with United Kingdom-based Digital Oracles.

Akil said that the skills the students pick up during their internships will be similar to those that previous students gained by going overseas, but perhaps different in how they employ them. “How do they work with somebody from a different country? How are they taking advantage of technology and using those skills to communicate with somebody in another country?” she asked. “Problem-solving skills are going to be particularly beneficial for students coming out of the time that we're experiencing.  They're going to gain skills that they may not have in a traditional internship.”