IFSA launched its Remote International Internship in 2020 while overseas travel was limited due to the pandemic. Students expressed interest in accessing international internships from home regardless of the limits to travel and health risks due to COVID. Access to international opportunities through virtual means opens new avenues for U.S. college students to experience the culture of another country, often at lower cost.
We asked three Spring 2021 Remote International Internship students (Jeddy Ngarah – St. Lawrence University, Elizabeth Smith – Rollins College, and Lisa Vetyuhova, Trinity University, TX) to share their experiences with the internship to help future students considering a remote opportunity.
Q: What interested you about a remote internship?
Lisa: After my study abroad plans were squashed due to the pandemic, I decided that I wouldn’t let my free time go to waste. After talking with my study abroad advisor, I found out that IFSA was doing remote internships abroad and decided to pursue it. My free time has increased, since commuting to class now takes one second, and I wanted to make connections abroad while I have the time.
Elizabeth: I had a wonderful remote learning experience over the summer with the Global Livingston Institute’s Global Scholars Fellowship Program based in East Africa. This taught me the value of virtual abroad programs where everyone can meet from their home and connect from kilometers away. Then, I saw an opportunity to complete a remote internship based abroad during the spring semester. Since I am still virtual with my home institution, I thought this would be a wonderful way to gain work experience and continue working on my cultural competence.
Jeddy: I was drawn to the ability to work for an international company without the need to relocate. I would have liked to go to India, but the pandemic made it difficult to travel. However, with remote internship I am able to experience a little Indian culture through colleague interactions.
Q: Why did you choose IFSA over other remote internship providers?
Jeddy: IFSA works hand in hand with universities and it is easy for me to trust IFSA has my best interest at heart because my school trusts them to provide best internship experiences.
Lisa: IFSA had the best reviews from friends who had participated in the remote summer 2020 internships and I decided to go with what was trusted.
Elizabeth: Before beginning the process for remote internships, I searched many different program providers for summer study abroad opportunities. Once I decided to complete a remote experience instead of an abroad one due to health precautions, I asked the study abroad office at my college, which provider they recommended. My college mentioned that IFSA has done a wonderful job in the past with in-person internships and said that this provider would be best. And so, I followed their advice and applied with IFSA. Ironically, IFSA sent out an email about their remote internship program first before other providers.
Q: Tell me about your specific internship placement. What projects are you assigned to complete?
Elizabeth: My internship placement is with the KEM Hospital Research Center based in Pune, India. My tasks explore four complex issue areas: disability research, sexual harassment prevention, psychological effects of unwanted female pregnancy, and child sexual abuse prevention. For example, my job for disability research was to complete secondary research on the accessibility issues in India. The second task related to sexual harassment prevention involves creating content such as PowerPoint presentations or pamphlets that can be shared in the hospital.
Jeddy: My internship placement is in India. I am working as a data analyst for a microfinance company called Parvati Swayam Vikas. My project is mainly focused on the effects of COVID-19 on people’s loan borrowing behavior.
Lisa: My placement at the Consortium for Migration in Prague has me compiling relevant news for the Consortium’s newsletters and learning more about the asylum-seeking process in that area of the world.
Q: How will this internship experience help you in your career?
Jeddy: With this internship, I am hoping to get the fulfillment that comes with making a community impact. As for my career development this internship experience contributes to my world exposure, and experience working with a diverse group of individuals.
Lisa: In the future I plan to go to public policy school or law school and work in international relations with countries in Eastern Europe. I am from Ukraine and have been working toward understanding how different countries handle topics like migration and peacekeeping between nations, and this internship is a perfect learning opportunity for expanding my knowledge firsthand.
Elizabeth: This internship experience has allowed me to work with professionals in health-related fields. I am currently applying to the Master of Public Health program at Rollins College to continue learning about public health and equity, so this internship is a stepping-stone to my future.
Q: What advice do you have for other students who might be considering a remote international internship?
Elizabeth: My advice would be to stay open to any opportunities that come your way. A remote international internship is different from an ordinary internship. Working with a culture different from your own requires you to be clear with your use of language, but you also learn so much about countries far away from home. Once you have an internship placement, create a schedule for the work you will be doing, dive in, and ask questions when something puzzles you.
Jeddy: My advice is to keep an open mind and challenge yourself to learn the culture of the country of your placement. Learning how Indians interact has been helpful when it comes to interaction and communication. These two are fundamental parts of culture that most people rarely pay attention to because interaction in western countries is very different from interaction in the social countries.
Lisa: This internship has reminded me that there is a whole big world outside of my home that is also functioning remotely and that we are not alone. Stay hopeful by connecting to people and learning about other cultures. The time we have now is ours to control. You can remember it in the most positive light possible by taking hold of the opportunities that come your way.
Jedidah (Jeddy) Ngarah is a statistics and economics graduate of St. Lawrence University. Elizabeth Smith is majoring in music with a health communication minor at Rollins College. Lisa Vetyuhova is majoring in political science at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. All three students completed the Remote International Internship with IFSA in Spring 2021.