“What Are Your Summer Plans?”

As a student at an institution as pre-professional as Penn, perhaps the most asked question is “What are your summer plans?” For me, a freshman who had a very vague idea about what she wants to do in the future, this question was quite daunting. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to travel my freshman summer and truly immerse myself in a country’s culture. Although I would consider myself pretty well-traveled, all of my travels allotted very little time in the country and involved mostly superficial, “touristy” activities.

Thus, when I found about the IIP program, I was ecstatic to find that I could potentially have the opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture for the summer while also gaining work experience. I actually found out about the program when the director of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Jonathan Chang, came to visit Penn. When he introduced the Lien Centre and Singapore, I was instantly sold. The Lien Centre is a think tank-esque center that looks into how private, public, and social sectors can interact to benefit society as a whole. Since I have always been interested in social enterprises and entrepreneurship, the center’s mission and location drew me to applying.

Overall, the application process was straightforward. I heard from upperclassmen that it was harder to get an IIP internship as a freshman, so I quite nervously looked into many other options for the summer. Fortunately, I got an email for a first round interview with Kevin, which followed with two other interviews with Jonathan, the same director who visited Penn, and Sujith, the person who would be supervising my communications internship. Both of them were super nice and clearly very passionate about their interests in social innovation. Although their scarily impressive bios on the Lien Centre website might have intimidated me, I felt very welcomed and relaxed getting to know them during my interviews. When I woke up to the acceptance email, I woke up my roommate shouting excitedly!

With the acceptance in tow, I immediately clicked the accept button and started preparing for the internship. Since Singapore is such a clean and safe country, I didn’t have to get any vaccinations during my health check up. However, the regulations for working in Singapore required a lot of paperwork. It took me forever to compile all of the information to receive the Training Employment Pass (TEP). Housing was also a major issue; Singapore was most recently named the most expensive city to live in in the world. Fortunately, there are two other IIP interns working with me at the same company, so we worked together to figure out housing.

For the internship, I researched the Lien Center’s past media and took notes on the content they posted, what worked, what didn’t, etc. I also looked into social enterprises in Southeast Asia more in depth. In addition to research on the internship, I researched the surrounding area to make weekend travel plans. By the time I started my 24 hour flight plan to Singapore, I was ready both for the expected and the unexpected. I cannot wait for the surprises that await me!

 

-Lina Shi

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Singapore

Going to Singapore

I had applied to the International Internship Program as a freshman, but unfortunately wasn’t accepted past the first round. After a year of growth and maturity, I figured I might as well try again this year. I ended up applying to the same firms; my interests haven’t changed evidently. Still, I didn’t really know what was in store, and I submitted my application not expecting much.

The first interview was straightforward: I answered questions about my interest in Singapore, venture capital, and the firms that I specifically applied to along with what I hoped to gain from the program. I was mainly nervous for the second interview– the one with the firm. Traditionally venture capital interviews are pretty difficult, replete with technicals as well as pointed fit questions. I stayed up all night preparing for my interview with Amasia, since my interviewer reached out one day before the acceptance deadline, so the time frame was pretty tight. The actual interview was even more basic than the first one– I simply described my interest and potential career aspirations, which ended up being pretty in line with what they were searching for.

I received the acceptance letter the following day. I shouted it to my roommate, texted my friends who had also applied to IIP, and contacted my parents. I felt a mixture of excitement, ecstasy, and relief that my summer internship search was over. I was going to Singapore.

The forms and paperwork were straightforward, albeit a bit inconvenient to keep track of. Our advisor Kevin Haines was absolutely fabulous at answering any questions, which made the process a lot smoother for me and many of my friends who had also been accepted. I settled logistics with my boss, including arrival/departure dates, weekly hours, dress code, and visa information.

I made sure to formulate a list of everything I needed to bring. Since this would be my first serious internship, I knew I couldn’t get away with dressing sloppily and had to go shopping for business casual, keeping in mind the extreme humidity and heat I’ll be facing every day. I had plans to travel on the weekends, so I also packed swimsuits, casual summer outfits, and flip flops. Otherwise, packing was not unlike any other regular travel experience.

A friend of mine who lives in Singapore had offered to house me, which made my arrival to Singapore a lot less intimidating. I simply got in a cab and gave the driver the address– airport cabs in Singapore are surprisingly cheap. For the duration of the ride, I chatted with the driver about interesting places to visit and examined the city through the windows of my cab. Most of my observations were comparing the city to Taipei, where my parents are from. In general, Singapore seems less crowded, cleaner, and more modern. My friend’s parents greeted me at the door of their home, ushered me into my room, introduced me to my maid, and explained the public transportation routes.

Currently, I feel very jet lagged, and I know it will take some time before I adjust to the city. I also know that this summer will be a special one, and I cannot wait to find out what’s in store!

-April Huang                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Amasia, Singapore

Preparing for the Internship

Monteverde, Costa Rica has always represented a place of healing and transformation for me. The fresh mountain air rejuvenates and the simplicity of life here removes the common stressors found in the American lifestyle. After my dad died tragically when I was young, my mom brought my family to Costa Rica to live for a year in order to experience a different way of life as a jumping off point for personal and familial growth and redefinition. I was the only blonde kid in the local school, I didn’t speak the language, and I surely was not accustomed to being the minority. However, through this difference I developed a strong sense of self and a deep empathy for the people and world around me. We have continued to visit and love Costa Rica as our second home since this transformational year (around 8 years ago). Although Costa Rica has always been an attractive place to travel to, I recently have discovered Costa Rica’s vast academic connections surrounding issues of health, wellness, community, and politics with my own personal studies and interests.

Last fall, I decided to embark on the journey of writing a Health and Societies senior honors thesis. Through this process, I decided to take advantage of my personal connection to Costa Rica as an opportunity to conduct ethnographic research on the experience of childbirth and maternal care for migrants in Costa Rica through semi-structured interviews and participant observation. I am fascinated by the experience of care for “the other” in a country that boasts inclusion, peace, and that supports a universal healthcare system. Alongside this research, I had hopes to work in the field of global health as a means of interweaving myself into the community that I would be studying, while also gaining experience in the field I would like to eventually go into.

I sought out a summer internship at The Monteverde Institute in order to compliment and accompany my original honors thesis research that I will be conducting here in Costa Rica. Specifically, I applied to be a research assistant in the Institute’s Community Health Program Initiative. The opportunity presented itself rapidly, and I applied for this grant at the very last minute! As I filled out the application, I became extremely excited and motivated to create a highly integrative summer for myself- with complimenting research and professional responsibilities. I knew that associating myself with the Monteverde Institute would provide me ample resources and rapport within the community. The personal statements in the application process especially provoked deep contemplation about why I was hoping to get this internship, and more specifically, why I felt such a strong draw to this special country. One of the challenges was getting all the information from the host organization during such a short time frame!

When I received the acceptance email, I was absolutely speechless. I was sitting in the middle of one of my classes when I opened the email, and I immediately went on to read it probably 5 times! I then forwarded the email to my mom with a, “LOOK MOM! I GOT IT! I’m so happy.” After receiving the acceptance, I contacted the Institute and started to coordinate dates and plans for the summer. In preparation for this summer, I needed to figure out a place to live, when I would arrive and leave, and I needed to do some last minute shopping for some rain gear, as the heavy rains begin in Monteverde during the middle of May!

As I boarded the plane to Costa Rica, I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach. I just knew I was on the brink of huge transitions and grand leaps in my academic and personal endeavors. It is an interesting feeling to anticipate big things on the horizon. It continues to fill me with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to make Monteverde my home once again this summer. I have no doubt that the integration of many important facets of my life will provide me with great satisfaction, personal growth, and ultimately, immense joy.

 

-Isabel Griffith                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Monteverde Institute, Costa Rica

Journey Around the World

IIP’s program in the Universidade do Minho (Braga, Portugal) seemed to be my destiny. I like research, I am interested in human rights and living in the beautiful country of Portugal for two months does not see like a giant sacrifice to make. When I saw the acceptance email, there was a lot of joy in my heart. I now see my arrival at the IIP position as the culmination of months of planning for an extraordinarily fulfilling itinerary from China to Portugal. However, fulfilling does not really begin to describe all of the logistical underpinnings of this journey around the world in 3 weeks, which included:

  • 6 flights
  • 2 ferry rides
  • 5 train rides, one of which lasted 28 hours straight
  • Countless taxi rides
  • 261 flights of stairs climbed in a single day at the holy mountain of Hua
  • Horse rides,
  • scooter journey through the Chinese countryside of Yangshou

So one could say that my journey to IIP has been… long and hazardous

But back to the beginning, having applied for study abroad and for a Penn Global Seminar in Mongolia (highly recommend!), I completed the technical portions of the application with ease. which actually allowed me to devote full attention to the intellectual portions of the application. Being an international student in the US already, I was familiar with the lay of the land, a lot of the technicalities of living abroad as a student and the types of obstacles I may face. This meant that I was not stressed or concerned, but I do know there will be difficulties.

My set of skills seems to be well suited for the IIP research. I have an interest in the topics that the professor I am assigned to researches, in addition to my larger interest in the state of the European Union. Overall, it seems like an exciting intellectual opportunity and sample of possible career options in the legal branch of academia. Additionally, being in the setting of a university always guarantees extra opportunities for personal development, something that my friends in the program have mentioned.

The interview was extremely friendly and informative. My boss, Patrícia, was kind and relaxed, focused more on getting me interested on the topic than showing any type of selectivity or reticence. I appreciated this and saw our discussion flow very naturally and happily. The best part about the interview was the realization that my own Mexican culture and demeanor matches up very well with the Portuguese. This makes me eager to expose myself to a professional setting, to continue learning from these little quirks of culture.

Packing was an interesting matter. I started traveling a few hours after my last final and trekked from Hong Kong northwards to China and eventually Mongolia. This meant that I could not carry much. I eventually compromised to carry a backpack and a small suitcase with me, giving another suitcase to a friend. After landing in Lisbon following a long journey from Ulaanbaatar, I would pick up the second suitcase. This happened exactly according to plan, barring the utter desperation I felt with a fever in my 15th hour in the Beijing airport. That was be the beginning of my IIP journey yesterday and now here I am in the apartment in Braga downtown, next to some excavation of a Roman bathhouse, eager to see where we go with this.

 

-Andrés Fernández Pallares                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Universidade do Minho, Portugal

My Dream Internship

So much has gone into getting ready for this summer. Since I spent my last two summers in Philadelphia, I knew that I wanted to do something big, and that meant going abroad. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go,  but I knew I had to go somewhere out of the United States. When I was browsing through internship placements on the Penn Global website, the World Medical Association position definitely caught my eye. It involved everything that I was interesting in – politics, international institutions, and public health. I couldn’t believe such a position was even possible.

Around January, I started the application process. The most important part of which was my essay. I spent weeks trying to craft something unique and personable. I really wanted those that looked at my application to know how much I desired the position. Surprisingly, it paid off! After waiting quite a few weeks, I got an email saying that I got a first round interview. I was elated! Halfway there to my dream internship!

Upon arriving to the interview I was extremely anxious. Even though I rehearsed interview questions the night before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily after the interview I was feeling so much better. I had a great conversation with the interviewers, and I left feeling even more excited about the position. Luckily, just two weeks after I was offered a second round interview with people from the WMA. I couldn’t believe it! Another step even closer.

I reached out to come past interns at the WMA for advice on how to handle the interview and what to expect. However, the interview was not at all what I expected. Even after hours of practicing and going over potential questions, they really caught me off guard. I felt totally defeated after completing the interview, which is why when I got the acceptance letter I was completely overjoyed. I secured my dream internship!

What was harder than securing the internship was finding housing. I was told that finding housing in Geneva would be difficult, but I never imagined the process that I had to go through. Everyday I would check a new website or message a new person, but I rarely got any responses. After weeks and weeks of messaging, someone finally answered me back, confirming that I could stay with them. I would be living with a family from Ivory Coast and another intern in Geneva from Amsterdam right outside of the center of the city and just across the border from my job in France. Everything was finally coming together!

Finally, I had to do the worst part of all: pack. Right after finals and moving out of my house, I shoved everything that I thought I needed into one large suitcase and headed for the airport. I was so anxious on the way there and my mind was racing. What would it be like? Will I make friends? Am I making the right choice?

Throughout the whole eight hour plane ride my mind was still filled with these thoughts, but as soon as I stepped off the plane into Switzerland, and I knew it was going to be a great adventure.

 

-Danielle Guy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 World Medical Association, Switzerland

Hong Kong, Here I Come!

My internship in Hong Kong starts June 13th! In the weeks before my trip, I’ve been spending as much time as I can with family and friends. I guess having an internship can be bittersweet. Bitter: being away from family and friends. Sweet: being able to work in another country, explore a different environment, and make more friends!

When applying for IIP, I was searching for a chance to travel, work, and experience a different culture. I applied for the Science Workshop in Hong Kong for various reasons. At the Science Workshop, I would help manage classes where we teach students of different age groups math, science, and technology. As a BBB major also interested in Education, I love helping others, and tutoring/teaching. I want to be able to help students find a love for science, math, or technology. The Science Workshop focuses on having an interactive environment where the students learn by actively participating and applying their knowledge. The internship sounded engaging and fun, I’m very excited to be a part of the team working there. During the application process, however, I was anxious. I wanted to express how I could make a difference and how I was excited for this opportunity. But writing has never been a great strength of mine, so I was stressed with editing and revising. After writing the cover letters and open-ended, I was happy that the remaining application process was straightforward. Once complete, I was relieved that I submitted my best work.

The morning of the acceptance email, I woke up, and like most college students, the first thing I did was check my phone. I was half asleep and had woken up early due to the sunlight streaming into the room. I was going to continue sleeping for a while longer until I saw an email: “IIP 2017 Decision”. At first I decided I would open it later, to be fully awake to receive the rejection. But something kept me awake long enough to fully open the email and read the “Congratulations!”, that woke me up. I was so excited! Back in March, the idea of going to another country for an internship was surreal. Now, weeks until my trip, I still cannot believe it. Being able to travel and do what I love, it is a blessing.

After that email, all the preparations came in storm. It was hard to find housing in another country, when I’ve never found housing in the states. But with plenty of help, housing was booked, and so was my flight. Health forms and vaccines were complete. Before I knew it, I sealed the deal. My flight is the morning of June 10th and I have a lot of things to do before then. I’ll be packing business casual clothes, along with casual clothes. I hope I won’t pack too much, I would like to have space in my luggage for things I buy in Hong Kong. I’ve heard how everything (besides housing) is cheap in Hong Kong, so I would like to buy some clothes, souvenirs, and gifts for family and friends but I would need space to bring it all back. I also plan on making a Hong Kong Adventure ‘Itinerary’. I know that when weekends come, I might be too tired or lazy to get up and find something to do outside. Planning ahead of time allows me to make the most of my time and see as much as I can of Hong Kong! I’m excited to bond with the other interns and hopefully go on these adventures with them.

Until my departure, I’ll be practicing getting up before 9am!

 

-Andrea Gomez                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Science Workshop, Hong Kong

Preparing for My Internship

I almost can’t believe that the many months spent preparing for my internship in Israel finally paid off!

The journey began in the fall semester when a friend asked if I would be attending the International Internship Program information session. After looking into the program online, I attended the session and decided to add IIP to my list of numerous internship applications to complete for the coming summer.

The application itself was much more involved than many of the others I applied to. However, I felt redeemed when I received an email informing me that I had made it past round one and could schedule an interview. After the interview, it was just a short period until I heard that I was accepted!

Naturally, I was incredibly excited to hear that I was offered the opportunity to travel to Israel to intern for NoCamels.com! My goal for the summer was to either earn an internship or a language scholarship in the Middle East. As an International Relations and Modern Middle Eastern Studies double major, I felt that I should gain firsthand knowledge of the region as opposed to relying simply on the numerous language and area studies courses I’d taken thus far at Penn. While most students choose to study abroad during the fall or spring semesters, my double major, minor in Mathematics, and transfer from Penn Engineering to the College of Arts and Sciences in my sophomore year prevented this course of action. Admittedly, studying abroad in the summer was an option but I didn’t want to miss out the opportunity to develop new employable skills through an internship. Therefore, receiving my IIP acceptance for Israel was all that I could hope for!

I immediately began to tackle the necessary paperwork and health appointments to travel abroad. It was a lot to manage but by communicating with the other interns chosen to work at the same nonprofit, we slowly muddled through.

Given that the internship is a minimum of 10 weeks, I decided to get started early and arrive in Israel May 18th. With my finals week ending on May 6th, most of my planning had to be done at the end of the semester and during finals week. Per the recommendation of a past participant, I used Airbnb to locate housing in Tel Aviv for the summer once my flights were set. Tackling the Visa took some time. While I knew that I could obtain a tourist visa given that the internship isn’t a paid position, the tourist visa is only good for 90 days. I will actually be staying in the region for roughly 92 day since I plan to travel after my internship is complete (first in Jordan for a week and then my parents will be joining me for an official tour of parts of Israel). However, after contacting the Israeli consulate, embassy, and the American embassy in Israel, I was assured that time outside the country would allow me to prolong my trip.

As I finally boarded that plane, I was both excited and nervous; excited for the new experiences to come and nervous that I know absolutely no Hebrew. However, more than anything, I felt ready to see what this opportunity would hold for me.

 

-Kathryn Dura                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NoCamels.com, Israel