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Students zoom around the world as summer interns

During the 2020-21 academic year, 49 Stanford students worked in virtual internships in 19 countries through the university’s Global Studies Internship Program.

Mornings in Lansing, Michigan, this summer found Zac Stoor zooming to Brussels for afternoon staff meetings at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, where he interned through Stanford’s Global Studies Internship Program.

During the 2020-21 academic year, the Global Studies Internship Program hosted student interns in 19 countries, including from left to right: Brussels, Belgium; Riga, Latvia; Cape Town, South Africa; Beijing, China; and Hyderabad, India. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Under the summer program, Stoor worked full-time for the sustainability think tank, whose team of economists, scientists and attorneys produce and promote evidence-based research and policy insights to benefit Europe and the world.

Stoor, a rising senior, said the institute scheduled meetings in the afternoon – Belgium is six hours ahead of Michigan – so he could participate.

“I’ll usually do my hardest tasks in the morning while my supervisor is still online so I can get questions resolved before the end of her day,” said Stoor, who is majoring in political science and minoring in global studies with a specialization in European studies.

His most recent project was updating the institute’s database of European Parliament members who have been – or may become – advocates for new sustainability policies. He also drafted posts for the institute’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and produced newsletters with information about upcoming activities.

“It has been an extraordinary learning experience to talk with experts on everything from sustainable agriculture to biodiversity preservation through the internship,” he said. “Even doing something simple like drafting a tweet will require reading a publication where I will probably learn 20 new things about the European Union’s environmental policy.”

Global citizens with a deep sense of care

Stoor is one of 40 students who spent the summer working virtually under the internship program. During the 2020-21 academic year, 49 students participated in the program, which hosted internships in 19 countries, including Brazil, China, Latvia, Mexico, Russia and the United States.

Jisha Menon, an associate professor of theater and performance studies who will become faculty director of the program on Sept. 1, said the pandemic has heightened awareness of the interconnectedness of human lives across nations and our dependence on global systems to surmount those challenges.

“The program serves as an excellent intellectual foundation for students to serve as global citizens with a deep sense of care for the world and the planet,” she said.

While students weren’t able to travel abroad this year, Menon said the internships offered the opportunity to forge vital working relationships with organizations around the world.

“Virtual internships provide an invaluable window into how organizations think, how cultural differences impact values and how these fresh perspectives can generate insights that can help us rebuild a more equitable world,” she said.

Working around the world from home

As an intern at the nonprofit Lalela in Cape Town, South Africa, rising junior Flora Troy analyzed data to help monitor and evaluate the organization’s art programs for at-risk youth.

She also conducted interviews via WhatsApp with the K-12 grade students participating in the programs to create poignant stories for Lalela’s annual report.

Troy, who is studying human biology with a concentration in child development, said she admired the warmth and resilience of the people she met through the internship.

“In the short time I’ve known them, they have had to move their office, adapt to increased lockdown restrictions and cope with devastating riots following the arrest of a former president,” she said. “I’m impressed by the grace with which they overcome challenges and continue to support their communities.”

Rising sophomore Alex Patel, who lives in Seattle, interned at Rogers Investment Advisors in Tokyo; his workday began in the late afternoon Pacific Time to accommodate the 16-hour time difference with the capital of Japan.

His tasks included evaluating fund portfolios, updating fund databases and screening new investment opportunities. Twice a week, he helped present updates focused on general and financial news from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and the United States at the firm’s morning meeting. Three days a week, he attended lectures by the firm’s head of external research.

“I’ve been working directly on projects that the firm is using to do research or potentially make investment decisions,” Patel said. “The firm isn’t afraid to give important tasks to interns, so it feels like we’re part of the full-time team.”

Karunya Bhramasandra, who wanted to do hands-on work for a community in need, used her social media expertise to help the India Literacy Project promote an initiative to teach young children and new mothers about health and development.

Bhramasandra, an English major who is minoring in global studies with a specialization in South Asian studies, said the internship has been an inspiring and humbling experience.

“Working on the ground – virtually – on literacy in India is a perfect extension of my academic interests,” she said. “As a rising senior, I’ve been thinking more seriously about what kind of industry I see myself joining once I graduate. I was curious to know what working in a public-facing job would feel like and I’ve found I like it. Very, very much.”