Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Linette Leng, UI undergraduate student pursuing a BA with a double-major in Spanish and interdepartmental studies, isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on her aspiration to gain relevant, global experience in the form of an international internship. Leng is currently completing a virtual internship at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Reggio Emilia, Italy, through USAC. We caught up with Leng to learn more about her experience.

University of Iowa student Linette Leng

Linette Leng hard at work for her virtual internship placement in Italy

For what organization/company are you interning? 

I am currently doing a virtual international internship through USAC based in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

I am working directly for Dr. Gianfranco Martucci, a physician and a specialist in Community Oriented Primary Health Care, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. We meet over Zoom on a weekly to biweekly basis and contact over email. Dr. Martucci is also currently a research supervisor at the Local Health Authority and IRRCS Hospital Santa Maria Nuova in Reggio Emilia and at the University of Parma, focusing on chronic illness management, palliative care and pain management, and educational methodologies. He also teaches elective modules at postgraduate training programs.

What is your role/what are your responsibilities?

My main responsibilities for the internship include conducting research with a main focus on palliative care and health promotion. This involves commenting and summarizing medical articles as well as proofreading of academic and scientific articles. I will also be helping to prepare materials for an academic project on primary health care in collaboration with the University of Parma and the University of Myanmar.

Do you see this experience being beneficial to your future career?

I believe this experience is very beneficial to my future career. I hope to become a physician someday. This virtual internship in healthcare has been introducing me to the many parts of healthcare that I had never been aware of. I especially love exploring how the healthcare system in Italy functions. Working with Dr. Martucci has been quite a valuable experience because I have been able to learn so much from him and be inspired by his passion for his work in palliative care and his projects with physicians in Myanmar. He has me researching and focusing on healthcare around the world which has motivated me to do the same in the future. It really has become my mindset not to be limited in my focus on just one country but rather, set my sights on the global level.

What do you see as the benefits of completing a virtual international internship?

I would say the international aspect of this internship is what I love the most. The doctor I hope to be is one that is able to care for people of all backgrounds. This includes being able to communicate and understanding their culture, traditions, and values. Because I had an upbringing that mixed various Asian and American cultures together, I became very passionate about language and culture at a young age. This passion led me to pursue a major in Spanish along with my pre-medicine courses. After studying abroad in Spain, I loved the global experience and wanted more. Now, I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be interning, albeit online, with Dr. Martucci and learning about the Italian culture and healthcare. For me, it’s putting my two loves and passions together, and nothing could honestly be better.

Although a virtual internship could never replace everything an in-person internship would bring, it has nonetheless been a tremendously valuable experience. The virtual aspect really has a charm of its own. I believe that it has made me more disciplined than perhaps an in-person internship would. I have to stay self-motivated and push myself to make sure I get the work done. It’s so easy to slack off because I’m not physically going somewhere to work, but I’m learning to be accountable to myself. I’ve also learned so much about how to navigate the internet on a professional level and use different online tools. I believe that will be a good skill to have in the future as more and more of the world is moving online. 

Do you find the work rewarding?

I find the work incredibly rewarding. I love being a part of the “behind-the-scenes” that helps Dr. Martucci in the incredible work that he is doing. I especially love our focus on health promotion. I believe it’s so important now more than ever. Endorsing values about self-care and public health is essential for dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic.

University of Iowa student Linette Leng

How has your virtual international internship strengthened your intercultural communication skills?

This virtual international internship has strengthened my intercultural communication skills through working with my supervisor, Dr. Martucci, and the seminar that is a requirement of the internship. I continue to have a better understanding of how to communicate across cultural lines through my meetings with Dr. Martucci and Simona Lai, the resident director at the USAC Reggio Emilia program. By working with these amazing people from a different culture, I have developed a better understanding of the American culture as well. There are certain things that I didn’t realize are unique to the American culture that are not a part of the Italian culture. Not only has this internship been a great learning experience, I love that it has been an opportunity to reflect as well.

The seminar through USAC is great for strengthening our intercultural communication skills. It’s been a fun way to connect with other students from around the world and even grow professionally. Recently, we read articles and discussed “growing your personal brand” which is something I had never heard about before. There was a global career panel where different faculty from all over the world shared their amazing global experiences that really inspired us students. I would 100% recommend USAC’s programs to anyone.

How has your virtual international internship strengthened your confidence and/or adaptability?

This internship has definitely strengthened my adaptability as well. I absolutely love the relaxed and somewhat carefree nature of Italian culture that is quite different from the fast-paced, sometimes stressful American culture. I was surprised at how my internship meetings tend to be quite informal than what I had pictured internship meetings in the U.S. to be. It was a small adjustment at first, but I find that flexibility is an important skill to have. I believe my study abroad experience in Spain last semester really taught me this because the culture in Spain is similar in that aspect. I also learned flexibility with COVID-19 that led to the cancellation of study abroad programs and trying to navigate my way back to the States. The virtual aspect of this internship has helped me grow in my adaptability as well. It’s not easy to stay motivated when you are staring at a computer screen all day. The key is to stay aware. I try to give myself breaks when needed but also have a set daily schedule to stay on task. I am also gaining more confidence from the whole internship experience as I’m learning how to adapt to the professional work environment at the international level in healthcare. I absolutely love learning about how different healthcare systems from around the world work. I believe there are many factors that I can incorporate into my work ethic and personal character that will help me to succeed and accomplish more in my academic and future professional career.

Do you complete your work in English, or in another language?

I do complete my work entirely in English.

Congratulations on being awarded a Gilman scholarship to help fund your virtual internship experience! What does the scholarship funding mean to you?

I can’t express how grateful and honored I feel to receive the Gilman scholarship. The funding from the Gilman scholarship is what has made it possible for me to participate in this virtual internship. I had originally received the Gilman scholarship for my additional summer study abroad plans in Valladolid, Spain, after studying in Madrid for the spring semester. Due to the pandemic, I was sent home early in the spring, canceling the rest of my semester abroad and making my summer plans impossible. However, the Gilman scholarship program graciously offered to still grant the scholarship if I confirmed that I would study abroad again or do a virtual internship. Due to my current academic plans, I am not able to study abroad again, so I chose to do the virtual internship. I am still in disbelief that I get to be a part of this amazing experience. I would highly recommend anyone eligible to apply for the Gilman scholarship.