CISABROAD BLOG · October 21, 2020 · 4 Min Read
From Disappointed Aspiring Traveler to a Pioneer in the Future of Internships | Student Blog from South Africa

A new opportunity shined its light over me and many other students who had great plans to intern abroad

As COVID-19 swept across the world this year, graduations were canceled, weddings were postponed, trips were refunded—you name it, and it was probably negatively affected by the rampant pandemic that showed no signs of stopping. Unfortunately, my 8-week journey in New Zealand to intern through CIS Abroad was one of those adventures taken away by this virus.

As soon as the summer sessions for CIS Abroad’s internship programs were canceled, the gears for virtual internships were set in motion. As this was a new journey for everyone, myself and all the other students involved were now not only given the opportunity to still intern overseas but also be pioneers for what is our new normal for the foreseeable future! The process, guided by the amazing team at CIS Abroad, was nearly seamless and I had a placement with CIS Abroad’s Virtual Global Internship in South Africa within weeks. Africa Unite opened their doors (or computers) and allowed me to be a part of a group of international interns that would be the first virtual interns for their company.

Pioneering a new normal

Working with a seven-hour time difference, the team at Africa Unite and I worked together to navigate this new normal, as everything was over Zoom or email. However, I was able to be a researcher and writer for this company and worked on multiple projects over the course of 8-weeks. I began working on a handbook that covered the umbrella topic of Social Emotional learning through different resources and activities to give students and teachers a more fluid transition back into a new COVID19 classroom. I was given the opportunity to write an entire chapter of that handbook about the topic of trauma-informed schools. I researched and covered what trauma-informed schools are, how to become more trauma-informed in the classroom, and why it is even more important to be trauma-informed during these times.

a picture of the cover art for the SEL Handbook Libba worked on for her Virtual Internship in South Africa

Cover Art for the Social Emotional Learning Workbook that I helped create!

Through CIS Abroad, I was also paired with an on-site cultural director, Sonya Bell, who so graciously took an hour of her time each week to discuss with us different aspects of South African culture. Through videos and light discussions, I was given an inside look into life in South Africa. It was such a light-hearted hour every week and I found myself looking forward to these conversations with Sonya! It is difficult to replace an in-person experience, but she did an amazing job exposing us to as much of her country as she could.

Understanding Cross-Cultural differences through debriefs with CIS Abroad

Along with the cultural sessions, we were given the opportunity to attend a weekly class session with Jennifer Engel through CIS Abroad, with all the virtual interns, not just those in South Africa. These class sessions opened the space to discuss challenges, successes, and all other aspects of our placements and became the most beneficial portion of the entire experience for me. Through these class sessions, I was able to speak about the things I was struggling with, as well as celebrate the accomplishments I had made within my placement. I really learned what kind of worker I was through discussing my experience with Jennifer and the rest of the interns, as they provided great feedback. It was not something I necessarily expected to enjoy, but I was very happily surprised to truly take away great lessons from these class sessions, along with connecting with everyone else who was involved.

a picture of Libba's favorite coworker, her black and white cat

My Favorite Co-Worker

Overall, this was not your typical internship experience, but it has become one of the best experiences of my life. I am now able to say I was one of the first virtual interns, and I have gained experience that is invaluable. The team at CIS Abroad went above and beyond my expectations and I truly cannot speak highly enough about them. I encourage everyone in the future to take a risk and embark on a virtual journey because you never know what you may learn.

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