The UVa Office of Global Internships hosted an expo on Thursday for students to learn about opportunities to work abroad. The event was part of Global Week at UVa, and brought back several Global Intern alumni with interests ranging from finance to social entrepreneurship to foreign affairs. The alums shared their experiences of spending their summers all over the world, pursuing their passions, growing their professional profiles, and learning about different cultures.
The UVa Office of Global Internships aims to facilitate UVa students’ participation in meaningful internships in global settings, and helps them partner with alumni, businesses, faculty, and other non-governmental organizations. Ingrid Hakala, the director of the office, explained that she was excited for the expo, because students interested in pursuing a job or internship overseas often enjoy hearing from experienced alumni.
“It tends to be more invigorating and more inspiring for students when they get to talk to somebody that’s already done it,” she explained. “For me, it’s very exciting to see connections get made between students educating one another.”
Hakala encouraged students to consider an internship abroad, emphasizing the enormous opportunities to encounter surprising, inspiring, new people.
“I think, really, ultimately, it’s about relationships,” she said. “It’s about the people that you get to meet, learning about yourself, learning about where you fit into the world, learning about what other people do, and pathways that you can take, and interesting human connections that you can make.”
Molly Magoffin, one of the Global Intern alums at the expo, is a second-year German Studies and Foreign Affairs double major. She says she experienced the powerful human connections that accompany working abroad firsthand.
“I worked in a refugee camp in Germany [for three months],” she explained. “It was really aligned with my interests, and now I’m interested in refugee politics, especially now that I have a face that’s put with the kind of faceless topic.”
Magoffin recommends that students meet with an advisor in the Global Internships Office, even if they are unsure about where they want to travel or what they want to do. By meeting, the hope is that the student can simply get advice about connecting with different professors and programs.
“I went to the office, I started talking about what I wanted to do, and I realized that the opportunities that currently existed weren’t exactly what I was looking for,” Magoffin explained. “I found the opportunity that I did by talking to all of my German professors, and my German teacher from high school, and then the American Association of Teachers of German actually connected me to this placement program.”
Once a student has identified a program, Magoffin explained, the Global Internships Office can help with applications, funding, insurance, and visa preparations.
“Basically, I came to the office with a ton of questions, and Ingrid, with the saint that she is, answered all of them,” Magoffin said. “She helped me apply for lots of different scholarships so I could afford it…When I got [to Germany], they asked me what I wanted to do, and that’s really what I ended up doing! They had a German class for refugees, because that was really important for their assimilation, and I ended up teaching German for beginners.”
Janie Hammaker, a fourth-year Foreign Affairs and Economics major also at the expo, had a similarly engrossing experience during her 8-week-long internship in New Delhi, India.
“I worked for a small social enterprise called Mrida, that does rural development in different villages across India,” Hammaker explained. “They’re a social entrepreneurship startup, basically…They have created a brand for products sourced from villages that they sell on the broader Indian market for a premium price. So that premium differential, they end up investing back in the villages to expand development and empower people.”
Hammaker also made use of the resources provided by the Office of Global Internships, and recommends it for other students.
“This office connected me with my internship, and connected me with funding and a bunch of other resources I needed before going,” she said. “Interning abroad is super incredible but super complicated, and it’s really important to have all of the resources you need before going, so they connected me with information about housing, traveling within the country, and resources in case I needed any help within the country, and health insurance, and my visa.”
In addition to the cultural experiences that Magoffin and Hammaker described, students interning abroad also enjoy the benefits of tangible career experiences, and boosts in their professional profiles.
“There’s the instrumental value [in a global internship] that it often helps you to increase your employability,” Hakala explained. “You have very interesting things to talk about in job interviews…So, there are lots of benefits!”
Hakala encouraged UVa students interested in a career experience abroad to visit the Office of Global Internships and learn about what it has to offer. There are several staff members available in Hotel A by the UVa Chapel to answer questions.
“I have office hours from 11:00am to noon on Mondays, and also from 3:00 to 4:30 on Wednesdays,” Hakala said. “And I have two really wonderful student workers, and they have office hours as well.”
Hammaker also highlighted the importance of asking questions and being open to new experiences.
“I really loved being completely immersed in another culture,” she said. “I feel like doing a global internship is a little bit different from studying abroad…I was really on my own, making friends and meeting new people.”
To learn more about interning abroad, visit the website of the UVa Office of Global Internships here.