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The College of Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to catch up with UD student Samantha “Sami” Fleischner, a sociology and organizational and community leadership double major, who completed a virtual internship opportunity during Summer 2020. Here’s what she had to say about the experience.
Q: What virtual experience did you participate in during Summer 2020?
Fleischner: Over the summer, I was fortunate to secure the position of International Relations Officer for Universidad Adolfo Ibanez (UAI), which is located in Chile. My roles included taking on the proposal of a business strategy to attract international students in North America, specifically for the university’s short-term programs and virtual internship opportunities. Furthermore, I was tasked with reaching out to numerous universities located in my assigned region in order to connect with them and discuss the opportunities of partnering with UAI. Additionally, I supported and further developed the UAI International Alumni Network, where I created and maintained a Facebook group to encourage alumni to connect with UAI and each other. Lastly, I proofread the UAI website to check for spelling or grammar errors which was helpful for the native Spanish speakers.
Overall, my tasks not only offered me a chance to put the knowledge I have been learning over the course of my four years at UD into practice, but I also got a taste of what working at an international institution entails.
Q: How did you first hear about this opportunity?
Fleischner: I was supposed to go abroad to Spain during the summer through a company that helps to place college students with internship opportunities. However, this in-person reality was unfortunately paused COVID-19 pandemic. Although my study abroad plans were not going to pan out, I still wanted to have some sort of experience in the field of higher education outside of UD. Therefore, I persisted and figured out how I could still gain valuable skills and take full advantage of virtual learning even if this new world of working and interning would look different.
Q: What were your day-to-day duties like in your role?
Fleischner: My day-to-day duties in my role included participating in weekly team meetings with my supervisor and other full-time employees, reaching out to alumni and potential university partners, and researching other universities and their offering to see how they competed with UAI. In addition to these, I worked individually on creating and implementing different marketing plans and strategies, I offered ideas about how to strengthen networks within the university, and managed the ongoing plans for growth that my supervisor and his colleagues created such as the focus on the alumni network.
Although we were all virtual–including the full-time employees–my day-to-day duties were not impacted, but rather, enhanced. For example, I was able to connect with other more easily since most individuals across the world were relying heavily on technology because of the temporary shutdowns, which made my job a lot easier and my completion of tasks moved at a quicker pace then they may have if I was in-person. Furthermore, I was able to participate in a webinar to prospective students across the world because of this advance in technology, which was an incredible experience.
Q: What did you like most about working in a virtual environment?
Fleischner: In terms of the benefits of working in a virtual environment, I appreciated the ease of connecting with others. Although nothing will beat in-person interactions, it was easy to reach out to other employees at UAI to schedule and set up meetings. I also really enjoyed enhancing my communication skills since I was tasked with using multiple platforms, including email, social media, WhatsApp and Zoom. Furthermore, the virtual environment allowed for me to meet everyone on a person level by connecting with them on-on-one, and even feeling more confident and able to reach out to universities regarding partnerships.
Q: Do you have any words of encouragement to students interested in pursuing virtual opportunities such as an internship?
Fleischner: Because our world is facing uncertain times, no one knows exactly when or how we will go back to “normal” whether that includes more virtual aspects of work or not. Preparing for this opportunity reflected the typical job application process and interview–editing and revising your resume, applying to the organization and interviewing for the position. The most important part of securing my internship was conducting preliminary research on the university I wanted to work with, and how my skills and talents would be of use to their organization.
Do not let the virtual portion scare you. Regardless of the format or delivery method, work experience is experience. I was definitely nervous as to how a virtual internship would play out, and I was scared I would be missing out on valuable experiences that I would have received in person, but I learned even more and had a unique opportunity because of the virtual nature. My internship truly was an eye-opening experience to another culture, way of life, and a different perspective to international education.
Article by Chris Kelley.
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