Friday, September 7, 2018

Nearly 70 University of Iowa students completed summer internships in their fields of interest. Impressive to be sure, but even more notable is the fact they completed these internships abroad—allowing them to not only gain relevant, global experience, but also to strengthen their intercultural communication skills, build confidence and adaptability, and in many cases, become more proficient in a foreign language.

These internships were coordinated through the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). IES is the international internship provider for the UI and the partnership has seen tremendous success, growing over 40 percent from the first summer in 2016 to the summer of 2018.

We caught up with some of the Barcelona contingent, including:

Abbey Schaefer, therapeutic recreation student from Dixon, Illinois

    • Child-life intern at Saint Joan de deu Hospital

Bradley Rhum, finance student from Vernon Hills, Illinois

    • Innovative intern at Meridiana Circulo Inmobilario

Daniel Ellis, industrial engineering student from Northbrook, Illinois

    • Quality assurance intern at Badi

Evan Hopper, marketing and business analytics & information systems double major from Davenport, Iowa

    • Marketing research intern at Mobile Media Content

Fatima Hernandez, business student from West Liberty, Iowa

    • Human resources intern at Divico Consultores

Hailey Verdick, speech and hearing science student from Iowa City, Iowa

    • Teaching assistant intern at Dolors Almeda School

Katelyn Mortenson, biomedical engineering student from Spencer, Iowa

    • Research intern at the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics

Ryan Pawlowski, accounting student from Naperville, Illinois

    • Accounting intern at Idiomplus

What inspired you to do a global internship in Barcelona?

Brad:  Throughout my whole life I have never been one to take many risks. Prior to my experience interning abroad I had always taken the road most traveled. As I was heading into my senior year of college I realized that I had been playing my whole college experience “safe.” When reflecting on my first three years of college, and life in general, I realized this was no way to live. I set one distinct and continuous goal to accomplish during my time abroad: To push myself every single day to be uncomfortable. I am proud to say that I did.

Evan:  There were two main factors in seeking an internship in Barcelona. The first reason was because I was fascinated by the people and generally laid-back, relationship-oriented culture in Barcelona, Spain. I wanted to immerse myself in this culture of business and get a chance to form lifelong relationships with individuals working there. The next impactful inspiration I had was from some fellow students in my business fraternity who had done internships abroad. From hearing the stories and seeing the impact it had on their lives, I was immediately interested.

Hailey:  I saw completing an internship through IES as an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working in a field of my choice. I knew I could learn from classes abroad, but I felt like I would gain unique skills by interning abroad. Additionally, I wanted to live like a local to experience things such as commuting to work every day, building relationships with coworkers, and learning about the culture of the work environment and community.

Ryan:  I was inspired to seek an internship in Barcelona so that I can gain some more experience and knowledge about how a foreign business environment works. I also wanted to intern in Barcelona so that I could challenge myself to utilize my Spanish speaking skills more. Barcelona also stood out to me as being one of the business hubs in Europe due to the city's centralized location and that played a big factor in attracting me to intern there as opposed to a different city.

What were some highlights from your internship?

Abbey: The main thing I learned from my internship is that language might not be the same in every place, but being a kid and having fun is the same. Even though language was a small barrier in my work with some of the kids at the hospital, we always ended up laughing and having fun. Although I speak Spanish, there were a lot of children there from other countries and I couldn’t speak their language so I had to improvise. 

Daniel: One of my favorite moments was when I was given the direct source code for the company's application, and had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) stating I wouldn't share it. It made me feel like I was really a part of the company. Being able to work directly in the backend of the code was very interesting and I'm thankful for the opportunity that Badi gave me. I also enjoyed just generally feeling to be part of a team. Badi was very inclusive and helpful in that regard.

Fatima: By working abroad, I’ve been exposed to cross-cultural differences and different communication styles. This has helped me grow, learn, and build some confidence to be able to ask questions when things aren’t clear.

Katelyn: My internship was at the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics. As a research intern, I was given my own project to work, and I also assisted on the projects of the graduate students. My project focused on placing a promoter region into a construct with a marker mechanism. Then this marker construct with the promoter could be transfected into a plant so it could be determined what part of the plant was affected at different points of pathogen infection. While interning I have learned to have confidence in myself. Everything that I needed to be successful in my time abroad I had already learned through my time at the UI. I just needed the push to apply my knowledge and to see that I am capable of more than I ever imagined.

Has your internship influenced your future career direction?

Abbey:  My internship made me even more sure about my future career. It made me realize how much I love what I’m doing. I plan to attend graduate school in health and human physiology (child life track) in order to provide psychosocial therapy to kids in a hospital setting. My internship prepared me well for my future job. I was able to have direct contact with kids facing a variety of health issues. I visited their hospital rooms and also worked with children in the playroom to keep them involved rather than just sitting in their rooms. I definitely think having this experience will be amazing on my graduate school applications and résumé to show that I’ve worked with other cultures and worked in a hospital in a different country.

Brad:  My internship abroad has had an immense impact on not only how I see life, but how I see my future. Before my time abroad I did not fully have a firm grasp on how I saw myself as a potential employee. After many struggles and triumphs abroad, I have learned what makes me tick, things I will enjoy in my future career, and a greater sense of what my strengths and weakness as a business professional and a person are.

Evan:  Definitely! Although I loved the internship and the company I worked for this summer, I don’t think market research is something I would want to do full-time. However, the market in which I was dealing with is extremely interesting to me going forward. I have decided that I want to work, at some capacity, in the entertainment, sports, and event industry and I have already applied to some jobs related to this.

Hailey:  The internship gave me experience working with kids aged 5-12. I learned that I do enjoy working with kids of all ages, and I like different aspects of each age group.  I now know I would prefer to work with students in smaller groups, and build one-on-one connections with them. I know being a speech pathologist is a good fit for me because it gives me the opportunity to work with kids of all ages, in small groups, over long periods of time.

What advice would you give to other UI students planning to complete an internship abroad?

Daniel:  The pre-departure course prepares you for this but I think it's worth reiterating - have plans for what you want to accomplish while you're here. It's important to know what to expect and not just go in blind.

Fatima: While working in a different culture, you might experience some challenges—but just remember to learn from them and grow from them—which makes you a more flexible person so in the future you can adapt to any situation you’re in.

Katelyn:  One suggestion I would have for future students studying abroad would be to not be afraid of trying new things. There are so many opportunities to try new things but also a lot of chances to stay in your comfort zone. America has a strong influence around the world which can make it easy to go to only the places you know.

Ryan:  I would say the best advice I could give would be that, yes interning in a foreign environment in which English may not be the main language spoken is intimidating, but being put out of your comfort zone is something that you should try so that you can learn more about yourself and how you are able to adapt and thrive in unique situations. Interning abroad is an experience that I would highly recommend to everyone as you will leave the program and reflect upon all your experiences and realize that you have developed many new skills and networks that can be put to use in future years to come.

Learn more about the experiences of UI students who interned in Barcelona here