From left: Inga Burlescu, Mikayla Cleary-Hammarstedt, '18, Maddie Wescott, '17, and Ana-Maria Burlescu laugh while posing for a photo. Cleary-Hammarstedt and Wescott were two of 82 Lehigh students to be awarded an international internship through the Iacocca Internship Program last summer and worked in Moldova. (Courtesy of Mikayla Cleary-Hammarstedt)

New Iacocca Internship opportunities aim to give more students an international experience


Going to a foreign country is an experience unto itself, but living in one and working in one — even for a brief amount of time — gives students an entirely different perspective than when they’re just traveling through.

Lehigh’s Iacocca International Internships allow students to gain career-related experience and an enhanced global perspective at no cost, according to Carol Ham, the director of international internships.

Mikayla Cleary-Hammarstedt, ’18, was one of 82 Lehigh students to be awarded an international internship through the Iacocca Internship Program last summer.

“Going to a country to see the sights is like only reading the back cover of a book,” said Cleary-Hammarstedt, who interned for a Moldovan NGO called Eco-TIRAS last summer. “You will never know the full story, but these internships set you up to read the whole novel.

“I made it my personal mission to make everyday seem like a new, big adventure. I found that while traveling, your mindset makes all the difference.”

In 2010, there were just five students interning in five countries. This year, the number of placements will increase to over 100. These placements will be located in more than 27 countries, which is the same number of internship host countries as last summer.

“Since its inception in 2010, the program has grown each year thanks to generous contributions from donors,” Ham said.

Ham also said that she hopes the increased number of opportunities encourages a greater number of students to apply.

She noted that students of every discipline and background can find an internship that pertains to them as long as they are open-minded, both in terms of the work they are applying for and its geographic location.

Cleary-Hammarstedt was one these applicants, and admits that she did not even know where Moldova was located when she received her acceptance letter.

She says that traveling to a poorer area of the world gave her a new perspective on life, and she encourages others to look into applying to an internship in a lesser-known country as well.

“If you’re worried about not being accepted, maybe apply to one of the opportunities ‘off the beaten path’ as I did,” said Cleary-Hammarstedt. “Not only do you have a better chance for being accepted, but when in your life would you ever get the chance to travel to a place like Moldova?”

Ham said the process is competitive and the selection committee goes through a holistic search process. The committee places priority on applicants who receive financial aid and who have never had an international experience. She said they do accept people who don’t meet those criteria, but it does increase an applicant’s chances if they do. The last factors the committee looks into is academic background and relevant interests.

If accepted for an international internship, which range from six to 12 weeks of working, Lehigh pays for the student’s travel to and from the host country as well as accommodations and meals, according to the international internships website. Some students receive a stipend at the end of their internship, depending upon their financial need.

“I am honestly still in awe of how generous the whole experience is,” said Cleary-Hammarstedt. “Never in your life will everything be planned to such great detail, let alone by someone else.”

Cleary-Hammarstedt stayed with a host family throughout her internship, but other international interns stayed in apartments near their work place.

Sothy Eng, trip leader for Caring for Cambodia internship program, reminds students to not feel entitled while participating in this cost-free experience.

“The staff of the organizations do not have much time to really host us,” Eng said. “Now (the interns) are taking more time from them, and many of our students don’t see that.

“So, my advice is to take the opportunity to be proactive and be reflective to the organization’s needs. Sometimes it’s unspoken, but there are a lot of things that you can do.”

Three information sessions about international internships will be held before applications are due.

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