Best Practice in Creating a Virtual Internship

I’m pleased to have this guest post by a colleague, Kelly Holland, Director of Institutional Relations, Global Experiences,  

At a time when the entire education abroad community, on and off campus, has been forced to halt its overseas programs, those sponsoring international internships (and domestic ones as well) have responded quickly to offer an alternative virtual model. I’ve known about the excellent work at Global Experiences for a long time; the program recognizes the importance of linking experiential learning with student career development.  Perhaps more students will realize what research has shown- that the applied skills developed from a well-structured internship are valued as much, if not more, than study abroad.

Kelly writes:

Staff across our industry worked tirelessly to bring home Spring semester students as Covid-19 swept through Western Europe and into the U.S., managing everything from flights to academic continuation to housing to refunds. For the team at Global Experiences (GE) – we focused on workplace and academic continuity for our international interns.

The GE employer network is composed of more than 3,000 contacts across a wide range of industries, from small and medium companies, to large multinationals . As employers shut their physical doors, they opened their virtual doors to our interns. With grace, flexibility, and compassion more than half of our host employers agreed to continue providing projects for active Spring interns and allowed us early insight into the virtual internship concept.

A GE international internship (both on-location and virtual) includes up to four major stakeholders: the student, the employer, the GE staff, and the university. With all groups working toward the same goals this Spring, GE quickly identified the need for a sustainable virtual internship program now launching this summer.

As multiple options appear across the international education industry, here are six things look for in a virtual internship:

  • Is the internship placement guaranteed? Make sure the commitment is clear from all parties. A written position description, acceptance letter, and description of tasks is a good place to start.
  • Is there a support structure in place for the intern? Some combination of online portal, real-time support, and dedicated staff are key.
  • What  will be done throughout the program to ensure success? Both intern and employer will benefit from frequent check-ins during the program to catch any issues of concern to either party.
  • Who are the employers? How are they being vetted to host a virtual intern? Work with a provider who has a network of employers that they know, and trust. Ask if they are providing support to their employers; what does it look like?
  • Who decides the schedule and the projects? Establish a clear line of communication for student, employer, and academic staff. Encourage the student to own their experience and encourage them to ask for assistance.
  • What else is included? Look for personal and professional development, career readiness tools, cultural opportunities, and a variety of access points (webinars, live chats, and assignments.)

For the foreseeable future, it’s likely that demand will grow for a wider range of virtual cross-cultural learning experiences.  We all  must continue to work tirelessly, creatively, and with intention. If executed well, virtual internships can be an accessible, affordable option that may empower students looking for ways to impact their career path in this uncertain time.

Learn more about GE’s virtual internships:



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