Hey everyone! My name is Zhané Bradley and I am a 2021-2022 Gilman Alumni Ambassador. As a Gilman Scholar, I completed a virtual internship in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the Spring 2021 semester.
I remember the sadness I felt when I read the subject line of the email announcing the cancelation of my original study abroad program to Ghana. A large part of me knew that it was only a matter of time before the COVID-19 pandemic halted all international travel, but the other part wanted to remain hopeful. A few months later, that optimism returned when I learned that I was a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. With the help of my study abroad advisors and the generous flexibility of the Gilman team, I decided to pursue an alternative opportunity: a virtual global internship. I never thought that I could gain international experience from the safety of my home, but that is exactly what my virtual internship gave me. I spent six weeks as a Digital Media intern with L.I.F.E. Argentina, a nonprofit organization based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Although it was unexpected, my internship turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career.
Before the internship officially began, I came up with a list of professional goals that I wanted to accomplish by the end of the session. My goals were to develop my skills in an international context, become an efficient remote worker, and build a network of individuals who also value cross-cultural communication. The group discussions in my weekly class meetings helped me identify how to market myself as an intercultural leader, and I was able to form valuable relationships with my coworkers, onsite supervisors, and class instructors. The remote aspect of this internship was challenging to manage initially. Although the difference in time zones was minimal, remote working requires strong communication and time management skills, all of which I had to strengthen in order to complete this internship successfully. Adding to the chaos that came with my final senior semester, I quickly learned how to set aside specific times and places for me to work. As the weeks (quickly) went on, it became easier for me to keep up with communication, and remain accountable for the tasks that I was responsible for.
Outside of the professional realm, I also learned more than I expected about Argentina’s culture. From food and music to the specifics of Argentinian Spanish, the weekly cultural debrief sessions have significantly impacted my understanding and appreciation of the concept of culture. For example, I learned that while Argentina is far more individualist than its Latin American counterparts, it still retains elements of a collectivist society. Working as a group and establishing close work relationships are important, and a greater emphasis is placed on families and communities. This was interesting to observe when my supervisor took a few days off to spend time with family in the middle of the week. I wasn’t used to this, but it was something that I appreciated and was able to understand because of what I learned in the class sessions. I now am more open-minded toward other cultures and able to better recognize the cultural lens that I view the world through.
Although I wasn’t able to physically be in Argentina, the experience that I gained through this internship because of the Gilman Scholarship was invaluable. I was initially hesitant as to how beneficial a virtual opportunity would be, but I am glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I had an amazing placement and was able to add an international perspective to my area of interest that I wasn’t able to at my home university. Learning about different work cultures, adjusting to remote working, and the professional development sessions were all important parts of the journey and I feel more prepared to approach the world of working internationally.