Teaching abroad encompasses everything that is valuable about gaining international experience. It allows people from different cultures to connect and communicate, share ideas and viewpoints and learn from each other. When you teach abroad, you’re opening your mind to a new culture, building your network, enhancing your language learning, and giving back to the local community.
This is why teaching abroad is the most common internship that USAC students participate in. USAC partners with schools around the world that allow our students to help locals learn English during their time studying abroad. Starting in Summer 2020, we began offering teaching English abroad as a virtual internship. This opportunity allows more students to explore and benefit from teaching abroad.
Whether you’re looking to teach abroad onsite during a study abroad or as a virtual opportunity, there’s no question that it will enhance your resume and make you a more worldly individual. But to learn the real benefits of teaching abroad we spoke with Doctor Elvia Torres, the Director of the Benedict School in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Elvia helped us understand what teaching abroad virtually looks like and the value of teaching English abroad.
Why is having an intern valuable to your company?
Gaining work experience has significant benefits whether you are the intern entering into the workforce, or the employer getting fresh ideas from young students who have an international background that is not from Europe. The USAC internship, in particular, is extremely valuable for us because students can implement new skills they may have learned during their University studies, and it allows us to connect people from different countries and with different cultures enabling them to interact with each other, which is absolutely beneficial for our students who are in the process of learning English.
This internship is offered in-person or virtually. What does teaching English look like from a virtual standpoint? What is a virtual intern’s typical day like?
Effectively being an English teacher is a very “in-person” experience, so doing it online is a more challenging opportunity that requires maximum concentration and preparation to maintain a great atmosphere for the classroom while teaching. The typical intern’s day is mainly focused on preparing the lesson plans and material that will be used during the session to try to optimize as many of the resources available as possible. Once everything is prepared (including materials such as videos that are a perfect tool for online lessons) giving the lesson seems the easiest part, but there is lots of preparation that facilitates the session and helps anticipate any possible setbacks.
In today’s market, how can an international internship help a student stand out?
Our economy is changing daily and with it, the skills, talent, and experience needed to be a part of that growth cycle. The job market is a competitive one and an international internship is a great way to apply the knowledge from the classroom to real-world experience in an international context, which is the real added value it offers students to stand out. Nowadays, employers tend to privilege hiring people with a great range of soft skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving and teamwork. If these abilities are learned in an international scenario where students have to understand and accommodate a different culture, their capacity and sensibility to deal with problems at work will be richer. An international position helps interns not only gain industry experience but also learn more about a different culture, explore a new location (even virtually), or practice language skills while they complete their internship.
You mention that this internship helps students learn about a new culture, how do you educate interns on Italian culture even through a virtual internship?
Apart from providing some teaching experience, the real added value this internship gives American students is the opportunity to be in direct contact with the Italian culture, even in a remote format. Interns are able to experience the Italian lifestyle and learn about the Italians’ mindset by having direct contact with our students, so the lessons become a scenario where there is an exchange of points of view, life experiences and traditions that both the American intern and the Italian students are willing to share. This is what makes the difference between the BENEDICT SCHOOL courses, we’ve always tried to provide first-hand training practices to their English students.
What are your top three tips for how a student can be successful in a virtual internship?
There are more than three tips to succeed in a virtual internship, but our top three are:
- Try to connect as much as you can with the culture you will be virtually working with. Everything in our world is about connecting people from different places, different ages, and different backgrounds to build a professional network, which allows a student to gain international experience and adaptability. During the internship, they meet professionals with a different vision of the world, who contribute to enriching the student’s technical skills and soft talents.
- Be curious and do your best to learn all about the workplace culture, human relations, and leadership structure abroad, which should help a student on board in their first professional job with more ease than if they haven’t had this international experience.
- Be passionate and do your best to fulfill the tasks assigned.
You recommend “trying to connect to the culture.” Do you have any tips on how students can do this virtually?
Research and curiosity are always necessary to learn about a new culture. The intern should join the lesson with a prior knowledge of the Italian point of view about the topic to be discussed. During lessons it’s important for the intern to talk about his/her American background to our Italian students and ask them directly about their opinions, feelings, or knowledge on the topic. Our students love sharing their points of view while practicing the language, so asking and answering questions is the most meaningful way interns have to connect with the Italian culture. Don’t forget: be hungry and willing to learn as much as you can from your counterparts! That’s the very best part of your internship!
What does an international internship offer that a local internship cannot?
An international internship displayed on your resume will give you a competitive advantage because employers understand that graduates with an international background have a wider vision of the world, which can not be acquired in a local school setting. Since interns have more practical international experience, they are more likely to find employment once they graduate, without mentioning the pleasure of working and learning from people with a different mindset. International internships can also create a unique and exciting opportunity for young professionals to virtually travel, for now, waiting for when we can travel in person again.