Summer 2020 Virtual Intern, Anna Wojciechowski, Ireland/Illinois

“Through this experience, I was reminded of the closeness of the world. Back in March, I was afraid that given lockdowns the world would feel less connected. Instead, I was met with support from friends and former professors from all over the world as I embarked on this virtual internship.”

Daily “commute” via photoshop

Anna Wojciechowski is a student at Northern Illinois University where she’s majoring in French with a double minor in global politics and sociology. Her goal is to someday work in international education, ideally with an on-site study abroad location — which is why she decided to embark on a virtual internship experience abroad this summer.

Now that her program has ended, Anna is volunteering as a senior alumni ambassador for CEA Study Abroad and she wants to encourage other students to embark on their own journey abroad, even if it doesn’t look the same as it might have in the past.

Before COVID, Anna had not planned on embarking on a virtual internship this summer. When she realized she would have the opportunity to complete a virtual internship experience, she was able to take advantage of the situation and work with two different companies in two different parts of Ireland. This gave Anna enough extra course credit that she will be able to graduate a semester early — in December, instead of June.

Although Anna did miss the “in-person” opportunities the internship experience would have brought by actually giving her the opportunity to live in Ireland, she appreciated the chance to accomplish and learn about the country’s culture, and is already planning to go on a trip to Ireland when it’s safe to travel. She says this experience reminded her of the closeness of the world and the kindness of humanity, as she was met with support from virtual professors and classmates from all over the world.

Read more in Anna’s COVID Chronicle, below:

Can you tell us a bit about how this pandemic has changed your university experience?

“After I studied abroad in Paris in Fall 2019, I decided to commute from home to campus for the Spring semester. Even though I was commuting, I was doing the majority of my coursework while I was on campus — so the biggest adjustment for me was setting up a workspace within my home.

Because the restaurant I work at in town was closed until the end of June, I was able to take on a full course load for the summer semester, which will allow me to graduate a semester early.”

Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to embark on your study abroad program, virtually? 

“Before the pandemic, I had not planned to complete an internship or study abroad this summer. The virtual aspect of the internship is what made it possible for me to gain this experience. I was the one who reached out to my university’s study abroad office about getting virtual study abroad experiences to count for credit.

It was a unique experience to work with them on a completely new type of program. In choosing the location for my virtual internship, I chose Ireland because it is a crossroads of sorts and I felt there will still be a lot to learn about the tourism and international education industries despite the lockdowns. I really liked the fact that I was matched with two different companies in two different locations.

I was able to learn about the country’s culture as well as the local culture in this way. I loved everything I did for both companies and I was pleasantly surprised about how much I was able to accomplish despite being a virtual intern.

The only thing I did not like was the fact that I was not able to be in Ireland, especially because both these industries thrive on cross-cultural interactions. I am already looking into planning a trip to Ireland sometime next year.”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during the COVID crisis? 

“For me, the biggest challenge at the beginning of the pandemic was figuring out the uncertainty of things. I had to decide whether I was going to do this virtual study abroad internship and online classes all while not knowing when the restaurant I work at would reopen. Now, I am trying to figure out what my options are when I graduate in December.”

Is there anything you feel that you’ve learned about yourself or the world from this experience, that you’d like to share?

“Through this experience, I was reminded of the closeness of the world. Back in March, I was afraid that given lockdowns the world would feel less connected. Instead, I was met with support from friends and former professors from all over the world as I embarked on this virtual internship.”

Irish soda bread she made for a CEA event

Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your personal priorities in life?  

“This was the busiest year I had ever had between working, volunteering, and going to school. When everything came to a standstill, I was reminded of how important self-care is and how easy at times it can be to forget about checking in with yourself when you are busy.

I have also used this time to bond with my family. We have been playing board games and doing puzzles as I am currently living at home.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I started a garden for the first time this year. It has been a learning experience that has continued on throughout quarantine. I also enjoy reading books in my free time, mostly about countries I have been to. Occasionally, I’ll read a book in French but that is usually more of a commitment that I come back to on and off. I have also been reading and watching Irish works to feel connected to the culture.”

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any other especially important future plans you had laid out?

“I am graduating in December and I had anticipated applying for jobs in Europe. As the pandemic continues to unfold, it seems uncertain whether or not this will be a possibility, if I will have to remain remote, or if there will be any openings for jobs in the international education industry.”



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