Monday, June 27, 2022

This article is the first in a series of two highlighting international internship opportunities at the University of Iowa. Read the second in the series here.

In January 2019, Monica Ernberger, senior study abroad advisor and program coordinator, began working in International Programs at the University of Iowa. Ernberger was originally hired in risk management, but her passion from over 20 years of experience in higher education was with student advising. It didn’t take long for Ernberger to transition to an advisor role and, with it, the opportunity to coordinate the international internship program for the university.

“I graduated from Iowa with a degree in French and an international business certificate,” said Ernberger. “Then I went on to do courses in education at the University of Northern Iowa before moving to Ames to work and study at Iowa State University. My role there as the senior program coordinator working with risk management issues, internships, and affiliated study abroad programs, lasted over a decade. When this role opened at Iowa, it felt like a natural move to come back to Iowa City.”

The global internship program at the university has long existed to provide students a path to earn academic credit toward their degree while immersing themselves in a new culture, acquiring skills, attaining personal growth, and exploring possible career paths.

group photo of Sam Longo and colleagues after a day of filming a commercial
Sam Longo (second from the left), is a production management intern with the company, Social Reporters, in Milan, Italy. Sam's internship experience will be featured in the next article in this series.

“Internships are about getting work experience, developing a skill, and the global internships combine those elements with an experience abroad,” said Ernberger. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that what one organization calls an internship, another might call field work, and another calls research. When we started looking at this program as experiential learning, no matter what the title of the position, that opened internships up to the fact that no matter what your major is, we must have opportunities for you.”

“We provide high-impact, international experiences for all students. Nothing in that statement says that students must get on a plane to do it. Travel is not for everyone and no matter what a student’s situation, students can have those impactful experiences through global internships.”

That shift is one of the significant changes Ernberger has worked on in her time as the internship program coordinator. The University of Iowa works with internship providers who provide custom placements to students interested in a global internship. Before accepting an internship, students interview with a placement coach and talk about their hopes, dreams, and career aspirations. Then a coordinator in the country a student is interested in goes out into the local community to find placements that have experiences the student might be able to do.

“Internships, in a way, pose the question to students, ‘not what’s your major, but what do you want to do when your time here at Iowa is done?’,” said Ernberger. “That’s been a big part of the shift. Internships truly are for everyone. Students completing a placement early on in their time at Iowa can focus on exploring potential career paths, and if something doesn’t work out, they can change their direction after the internship. For those completing a global internship later in their college career, the internship can be about skill acquisition and gaining practical experience for the future. My advice to students considering a global internship is to come to the table with some thoughts on their career aspirations post-graduation. I also encourage all students to go to the Pomerantz Career Center for advice on their career goals and resume preparation.”

The summer 2022 global internship class highlights this shift in aim for internships. 50 University of Iowa students completed global internships this summer. Among them, they had 53 areas of study represented. From accounting and international business to chemistry, pre-law, and sport and recreation management, students at Iowa are discovering the true impact of a global education through international internships, regardless of their major.

Sam Longo in front of the Duomo in Milan, Italy
Sam Longo in front of the Milan Cathedral

“More and more, students have discovered the value a global internship has on their educational experience and how obtainable, and affordable, the experience can be,” said Ernberger. “Still, I think there are students out there who are not taking advantage of opportunities because they’re not aware that internships have access to scholarship funds. I want to make sure everyone knows about options that help them, and the people supporting them, access those experiences. Global internships aren’t simply for those going abroad either; there are several international internships that are completely virtual.”

The virtual components of internship programs were born of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as time has passed and international travel opened, virtual internships have remained because they help International Programs provide something for everyone, no matter the circumstances. To help facilitate international internship opportunities for UI students with reputable providers, Iowa has affiliated with IES Abroad, SIT, CEA, USAC, TEAN, and CIEE. Several of the providers continue to offer virtual internship programs despite international travel opening back up.

“We provide high-impact, international experiences for all students, “said Ernberger. “Nothing in that statement says that students must get on a plane to do it. Travel is not for everyone, and no matter what a student’s situation, they can have those impactful experiences through global internships.”

Students considering a global internship are encouraged to complete a Discover Study Abroad session. Then they can schedule an appointment with the advisor for international internships by contacting UI Study Abroad at 319-335-0353.