Global Competencies Go Virtual

When the longstanding University of Minnesota Study & Intern program in Florence was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic, internships moved online and students exceeded expectations.

Building on years of experience sourcing internship placements and mentoring student interns in Accent cities, we are particularly proud of the success of virtual internship programs in 2020. Internship placements are sourced to meet student interests, skills, and future goals. Some placement highlights from Florence include: 

  • Enoteca Pontevecchio – local wine shop 
  • Florence News – English language publication
  • Monnaluna – artisan leather goods
  • Podere Gualandi – biodynamic farm and vineyard 
  • Healing Photo Art – arts NGO
  • Beba Gioielli – artisan jewelry maker
  • No-Stop Studio Architetti – architecture firm 

Tasks have included digital marketing and social media management, copywriting and translation, project management, web design, product design and development, research, and other specialized projects specific to the placement industry and student skill set.

Internships are accompanied by a course, developed and taught by local faculty in each city. Students are challenged to analyze and reflect on cultural identity, sociocultural and historical factors impacting work in Italy, the challenges and opportunities of virtual collaboration, and the economic, social, and political impact of Covid-19. Some of the course learning outcomes include: 

  • Consider the ethical implications of the government’s response to COVID-19 in their internship placement country and compare it to the government responses in the US and to other students’ internship countries
  • Research and analyze the placement country’s workplace, particularly in terms of social media and online presence, including language, norms, values, economic assumptions and compare this to virtual environment to that of the US
  • Understand their values, skills, and behaviors and how different values and communication styles may impact workplace dynamics; develop strategies for adapting to these differences
  • Identify and articulate skills and experiences necessary to reach future career goals; develop learning objectives for the virtual internship site that will help them move toward these career aspirations

In addition to class meetings with the course instructor, students participate in regular virtual meetings with the placement coordinator in Florence to discuss the particulars of their internship experience, including progress on projects, the relationship with the assigned mentor at the host company, and communication.

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