Internships are a requirement for some degree programs at New Mexico State University, and with COVID-19 restrictions in place since March 2020, a student’s graduation plans could have been derailed without a timely internship placement. But NMSU’s Education Abroad helped a group of students fulfill their requirement with virtual international internships.
In fall 2020, NMSU’s Education Abroad began offering virtual international experiences, and Program Manager Erica Nikolaisen said they plan to continue to offer these options.
Anne Hubbell, Department of Communication Studies professor and Honors College associate dean, contacted the Education Abroad staff when she realized students in the department were having trouble finding internships. The result led to placements from the University Studies Abroad Consortium.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for students,” Hubbell said. “It adds to their resume and shows that they have an international work experience as well as can effectively work online. The reality is that many jobs will continue to be remote, and through this internship, our students have shown that they can work with anyone, anywhere in the world, remotely.”
Jett Barela, a communication studies graduate student, interned with Transitions, a non-government organization based in Prague, Czech Republic. Transitions publishes digital news around the European Union and offers international journalism training courses on its website.
“Even though this internship was virtual, I still felt like I got the full internship experience out of it,” Barela said. “While I obviously couldn’t go to the Czech Republic during this time, my work at Transitions felt important and those I worked with would give me feedback and take my opinion into consideration. We would have weekly meetings where I got to understand the work culture of another country, and my work I did this semester will help Transitions in their future endeavors.”
Communication studies senior Linh Nguyen spent the spring semester as an intern working for CreativeMornings and its Bologna/Ferrara chapter in Italy. A nonprofit organization, CreativeMornings facilitates networking and sharing ideas between different communities across the globe.
“My role in this internship is to conduct marketing plan and new virtual communication strategy, network with other international chapters, produce social media content and videos, and do research about local brand positioning,” Nguyen said.
“I am honestly glad that I had a chance to participate in an international virtual internship as it has benefited me not only professionally but also academically and personally,” she said. “Since I am working for an Italian organization, I have gained intercultural communication skills and opened my eyes about a different culture aspect. This internship allows me to make connections in a new job market and distinguish myself for future job.”
While Barela recommends this opportunity to everyone, he admits navigating an eight-hour time difference could be challenging.
“Even though this time difference was difficult, Transitions and all the people who worked there were extremely helpful and attentive towards my needs so they always got back to me as soon as they could,” Barela said.
Even though Hubbell said traveling to their internship cities would have been preferred, cost savings and opportunities from many countries were among the benefits.
“Another advantage was the class they took while they had their internship,” Hubbell said. “The class was focused on their experiences and what they were learning about the culture they were working in. The students made some connections with other students from all over the U.S. and learned a great deal. We have an internship class they take in our department, but this additional class truly helped the students still connect with the culture even though they were interacting online and not physically there.”