CISABROAD BLOG · September 10, 2021 · 4 Min Read
Turning Cultural Differences to Learning Experiences

Back in January, I began to think about what I wanted to do this summer. Research? An internship? I knew I didn’t want to go abroad due to the pandemic. However, I found out about the Virtual International Internship experience offered by CIS Abroad through my school’s Study Abroad Office. Once I read into the program, I knew what my plans were for this summer. Not only would I gain valuable work experience in a field of my choosing, but I would get to do it in a way that gives me the excitement of an international experience!

When Concerns Become Learning Experiences

I decided I wanted to work virtually in New Zealand, as I have always wanted to know more about the country. After being accepted into the program, I was placed with a company in Wellington, New Zealand, where I would work as a Data Analyst. While I was extraordinarily excited, I was also nervous about my forthcoming opportunity; what if I have trouble understanding the New Zealand accent? What if I don’t know how to complete the tasks that are assigned to me? As these thoughts ran through my head, I realized that these troubles weren’t necessarily something to fear or worry about. They would be great learning experiences! Throughout my internship, I dealt with these exact problems and others as well, even if only for brief moments.

First Meetings & Cultural Debriefs

During my first meeting with my supervisor, I learned I would have to use technical concepts and programming languages I was not yet familiar with to complete a research project on a topic of my choosing. While some might start to feel anxious, I told myself that this opportunity is a great chance to learn something new. Boy was I right! I can now effectively utilize these various technical skills I obtained through my internship experience for future roles and projects. Additionally, I was incredibly fortunate to learn all about New Zealand culture in my cultural debrief sessions with Ms. Major. We spoke about all aspects of culture in the country, from food to language to the indigenous Māori culture within New Zealand.

I also had to overcome some cultural differences as well, such as loose deadlines, which taught me to manage my time better. (Speaking of time, New Jersey and New Zealand have a difference in time of 16 hours!) This also taught me to be adaptable, even if it meant eating dinner at a different time (gasp!) We often spoke about the idea of cultural competency, which means knowing how to embrace, understand, and work with another culture, all things I believe I can now excel at in my career.

As a result of my experience, I may now be published in an international journal, I have learned to successfully work across cultures, and I was able to polish my technical skills I hope to one day use as a Data Scientist.

Final Reflection

Now that the internship has come to a close, I can say I am thankful for my unanticipated learnings and the issues I had to work out along the way, as they taught me a skill we often discussed throughout our course with Dr. Engel: adaptability.

CIS Abroad provided me with an amazing virtual opportunity to learn and grow professionally and as a person, and I will be forever grateful to have participated in this program!

Looking to gain a new cultural perspective from the comfort of your home? Check out our virtual internship options.

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