Global internships give students a world of real-life experience

Publication Date

Muhammad (Talha) Mushtaq ’23, a computer science major, is working remotely on digital sustainability for Fasade Pty Ltd, a data management company based in Sydney, Australia.

Trisha Argawal '23, an economics major, is creating a video for Paragon Partners Asia, a private equity investment company in Shanghai.

Muhammad (Talha) Mushtaq ’23

Muhammad (Talha) Mushtaq '23

And Andreina Benito Negretti '21 is doing research for Sidera Consult, a multidisciplinary consulting firm headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil. She is a Latin American Studies major with minors in French and Francophone studies and law and humanities.

All three students are taking Union's fall term Virtual Global Internship course (TAB200T), a collaboration with the College’s study abroad partners, campus b, CAPA and CET.

With the global partners’ operations spanning five continents, the remote internships give students access to a variety placement opportunities during this time of restricted travel. Students earn one academic course credit from the course.

Union is offering the remote global internships again during winter term as part of a larger initiative of experiential programming.

“Fall term is usually our busiest for study abroad, but COVID-19 changed everything,” said Lara Atkins, director of International Programs, noting that all of the College’s programs in other countries were canceled.

“Not having access to international travel has obviously been extremely challenging for everyone. Despite the disappointment, it’s been gratifying to see that our students are making the most of their virtual experience.”

“My internship deals with managing data that is vulnerable,” said Mushtaq. “People are producing huge volumes of data and it is expanding exponentially, just like plastic in the ocean. Fasade seeks to manage this data better than the traditional methods used to store, retrieve and analyze data.”

In working with Fasade’s digital platform, “I am able to apply what I learn in my programming classes and coursework,” he said.

Working 15 to 20 hours each week, Mushtaq meets regularly with his internship supervisor. He balances three time zones – while living in his native Pakistan, interning in Australia and taking courses remotely at Union.

“The global internships course gives you a great perspective on what to expect when you start a job and insight into what you want to do in your career,” he said. He also has gotten to know students from other countries and another Union student, Concordiensis editor Dan Wilcox ’22, a political science and economics dual major who is doing a remote internship in London.

With her Shanghai internship, Argaval is also juggling time zones. At home in her native India, she is taking courses at Union, and she meets with her internship professor, who teaches from Prague, Czech Republic.

While putting together her video for Paragon Partners, Argaval is in close contact with her supervisor, and she and seven other student interns share their experiences, readings and reflections remotely.

She particularly enjoys her daily training call with the other interns and supervisors.

“You learn quickly on these calls, and being part of the group makes you feel that you are not on your own,” she said. “We bring different skill levels and backgrounds, and everyone’s input is valued. I am learning vital skills apart from a textbook.”

Negretti, of Lechería, Venezuela, is living on campus this term. She engages in two remote team meetings per day plus personal meetings in her internship with Sidera.

“The projects are super interesting, like one with the manufacturer Faber-Castell involving research on creative learning platforms for middle and high schools,” she said.

Also living on campus this term and doing a virtual international internship is Amarachi Ivoko ’23 of New York City, a computer science major with a French minor. She is working for Enguia in São Paulo, a startup of engineers, architects and developers devoted to bringing energy efficiency to properties that can’t afford an on-site consulting.

“We create and test energy efficiency calculation machines for hotels, basing everything on the current Enguia algorithm,” Ivoko said. “It’s so much fun to meet other students from other parts of the world, and I have even had the opportunity to learn a few words in Portuguese.”

Mushtaq, who aspires to start his own socially conscious company one day, sees the silver lining in a pandemic that has upended so many things in academia.

“COVID has taught us a very special lesson about new virtual experiential education opportunities,” he said. “We are living in a virtual era. Union did something out of the box with this virtual global internship course. It is really accessible, and I’ll remember it for a lifetime.”

All majors and minors are welcome to apply to the internship course. Participating students who are exclusively taking remote classes receive a Robert J. Moser ’99 Experiential Learning Award of $2,000 to help offset expenses related to the course.

Those with questions may contact the International Programs Office at intlprograms@union.edu.