The Iacocca Internship Program allows for financial-aid qualifying students and those who have never been abroad to intern in a foreign country. This past summer, all internships were held virtually due to the pandemic. They will be virtual this upcoming summer as well.
Summer 2020 had 11 virtual internship offerings and winter 2020 had 23. For summer 2021, there are now 50 virtual internships being offered.
Jessica Franolic, ‘22, was accepted into the Iacocca Internship summer 2020 cohort.
“I really wanted to be able to live in another country and experience a new culture firsthand,” Franolic said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen, but I think being able to work in an international office taught me a lot about cultural differences. It was valuable for me to experience, especially considering a lot of companies have an international presence.”
Franolic said students were given the option to defer the internship.
Franolic deferred her internship to winter 2021 and is looking to take advantage of travel grants, worth up to $4,000, being offered by the program. She hopes to go to London next winter to get the hands-on cultural experience she was looking for.
“Travel grants are something we have come up with in this time because we 100 percent understand the value of students being abroad, face to face with their colleagues and and with people from the country to see the culture and eat the food,” said Michelle Spada, assistant director of the Iacocca Internship Program. “We are trying our best to have this virtually but some things are just impossible to get.”
In addition to the travel grant, the program has introduced a cultural learning curriculum for summer 2021.
Spada said the cultural learning component normally takes place on the ground abroad. Given the remote nature of the internships, however, her team has created a cultural learning curriculum to accompany the virtual work environment students will be in.
Despite the travel component of internships not being available for summer 2021, Stephanie Alkhatib, ‘23, is still excited for the work experience and cultural exposure.
“We will still be working over 20 hours a week. Having that experience, even if it’s online, I think it will be worthwhile,” Alkhatib said.
Spada believes specific components of the virtual internships should be kept when they can be held in person again.
“We would like to offer virtual internships even when travel is possible,” Spada said. “We have seen that they are more accessible to some students and we do a lot more engagement within this virtual environment. We have cultural mentors whose relationships have been very impactful for our students in giving students another way to engage with and learn more about the culture and expand their potential network.”