Alex Dascenzo didn’t let a global pandemic stop her from gaining international work experience this summer. Dascenzo, a junior in the Environmental Design in Architecture program, spent the last eight weeks interning at a company based in Barcelona, Spain. She remained stateside the whole time but spent 5-7 hours each day working for TEXTILO, a company that offers personalized garments of all kinds through embroidery, printing, and serigraphs.
“I’m being exposed to many different parts of textile production and am learning new things every day,” Dascenzo said. “I feel that my skills are being put to good use, and I am being helpful to the company while also learning new skills.”
The time difference with Spain has been relatively easy to navigate since her work hours were very flexible. She checked in with her supervisor via Zoom or WhatsApp in the morning then worked throughout the day at her own pace. The company also used an online platform that allowed her supervisor and coworkers to assign tasks to her and track her progress.
“Working with the people at TEXTILO has been a joy,” Dascenzo added. “They are very communicative, welcoming, and flexible.”
Dascenzo decided to apply for a virtual program this summer when her older sister’s plan to work with a wedding planning company in Florence, Italy was switched to a virtual internship in March. She decided at that time to take her chances on applying to a virtual summer internship.
“With the coronavirus just starting to come into the U.S., I knew my chances of getting an in-person internship where I lived were slim,” she said.
Dascenzo worked with ISEP Global Experiences Virtuoso for this internship. It’s one of several virtual global internship programs that NC State’s Study Abroad Office is recommending for students to consider for this upcoming semester while all study abroad activities have been suspended based on guidance from the UNC System. The recommended programs were vetted by staff in the Office of Global Engagement based on the company’s past performance of in-person programs and history of working with NC State students.
“We also looked for a diversity of countries, employers, and industries so that our students had the optimal opportunity to find a program that best fit their needs, skills, and interests,” said Robin Dorfman, program associate for external relations.
Another important factor to consider was focusing on companies that could provide cultural exchange in a virtual environment. Each of the recommended programs offers students cultural learning opportunities such as lunch and learns, webinars, local peer connections, language classes and more.
“We want to ensure that students aren’t just working for a company that happens to be in another country,” Dorfman added. “We want them to be engaged with that country’s culture, history and lifestyle.”
Dascenzo affirmed that the Global Experiences team helped to prepare her for the internship and continued to assist her throughout the program.
“The program offered Zoom meetings where we develop, learn more about, or reflect on our strengths, workplace cultures, and teleworking,” she added. “They also taught the interns how to network through webinars and cultural events.”
Some students can also use the virtual global internships to earn academic credit or satisfy degree requirements. And while the virtual experiences can’t replicate the full, immersive experience of living in another country, they provide a viable alternative while travel restrictions are still in place.
“Students can gain a global perspective while building their resume, developing critical work skills, and expanding their professional network from the safety of home,” Dorfman added.