Lessons from Interning Virtually in Ireland

Syd O'Wesney

 

As I write this now, my journey with Learn International is slowly coming to an end. Eight weeks seems like a long time, but it flies by in the blink of an eye. This internship has exposed me to a greater understanding of the field of International Education in ways both expected and unexpected. Interning with a company abroad is a valuable experience that develops many skills. Interning virtually with a company abroad adds a different set of skills that aren’t as obvious coming into the experience. Learn International has taught me so much about myself and has further developed my skills as a student affairs professional. Here are a few lessons I learned during my time interning virtually:

1. Learning to reach out and ask for help

The virtual world is not one where a supervisor can check up on you in the same way that they could in person. Much of your work is independent, and interactions are limited to scheduled meetings, Slack messages, and emails. Limited interactions means that you have to be more purposeful with the time that you do interact with those that you work with. You are prompted to learn how to better reach out when you do need help. As an intern, you aren’t expected to have the answer or the solution to everything, and that’s okay. Learning how to reach out and ask for help is one of the most important life skills you can have, both professionally and personally. A virtual setting provides a means to grow into that skill because you have to be much more purposeful in reaching out when you do need support.

2. Connections are more purposeful online

In an in-person format, I likely wouldn’t be meeting with my supervisor everyday the way that I do for my virtual internship. While the in-person format allows for more informal interactions, the daily meetings have created a wonderful avenue for that as well. Our meetings aren’t only spent talking about work; much of them involve getting to know each other’s interests, goals, and lives as well. It creates a connection that feels like being there in the office with someone without actually being there physically. These interactions also promote a lot of development behind the scenes that help me reflect on the work that I’m doing and allow for further growth.

3. You will learn how to be more independent in your work 

I’ve always been a pretty independent worker, but working virtually has taken that to a new level. Since my supervisor or coworkers aren’t in arms reach, I find myself attempting solutions on my own before asking for help more so than I did when I worked in an in person format. As someone who appreciates flexibility in my career, virtual work has added even more flexibility that I didn’t have before. I’ve found myself able to do better work this way, and that’s something I’m very grateful to have learned about myself.

4. You will learn how to adapt

Technology requires adaptability. It’s something we’ve learned through the process of enduring a pandemic and this internship has really cemented that. I’ve learned so many new technological skills that I didn’t have pre-pandemic. I also learned how to adapt a lot of the work that I know how to do to a virtual format. This shift has reminded me of how versatile technology can be and how it can make real, positive change in how we work and support students.

5. Culture can be accessed and appreciated in far more ways than just being in person

While traveling to other places physically will always have its appeal, our virtual globalizing world creates a wonderful opportunity to engage in culture from the comfort of our homes. Consuming Irish media, checking out the virtual Saint Patrick’s Day activities, or online newsletters and videos have all helped me connect with Ireland without ever being there physically.

6. Working in a different cultural environment can open your eyes in different ways than studying abroad does

Now more than ever, I want to move and work abroad. This experience has taught me how much work styles and workplaces differ all over the world. Exploring this has made me realize that the work style common in the United States isn’t necessarily for me, and I want to explore where I would find the most satisfaction in my career. The world is still big, despite how connected we are nowadays. There are so many different ways of life to explore and appreciate. 

 

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