Virtual Internships Abroad A Tale of Two Cities

June 10, 2021
By Andres Eskenazi, CAS/SEAS '22

Fourier Intelligence - Singapore

It is 8:50 pm local Philadelphia time. After a long day of research at my lab in the engineering school, I begin to get ready for taking a virtual flight to a place in 12 time zones and 9576 miles away from my apartment at 40th and Spruce. I check my email, re-read my notes, practice a few Chinese words, and tell my roommate, "Franky, I'm leaving for Singapore now, my first morning 9:00 am meeting is about to begin!". As I press the Zoom link that takes me to my meeting in Singapore, I feel almost like stepping inside the wardrobe that led into Narnia, only that my destination actually exists!

"Good evening, Andy. Welcome to Fourier Intelligence!", salutes Jake, my manager, as my face emerges for the first time in one of the Zoom rectangles. "上午好good morning everyone!" I reply back with a smile, while all of us laugh and acknowledge the 12-hour difference between the City of Brotherly Love and the Lion City. "Hello Andy, welcome to the Fourier team. Alright, now that everyone is here, we can begin with our daily meeting," says Zen, the director of the Singapore office. And just like that, our call begins, with everyone in the team going in a circle and updating all of us about their daily tasks and goals for the day. "Wow", I think to myself, "these daily meetings are run just like in my research group. It is incredible that even the director partakes in them. They are so organized – no wonder why Singapore is the great country it is". As our group call ends, I join another one with my manager, where he explains that one of my tasks for the first few weeks of the internship will be researching this new motion-detecting technology developed by Microsoft. Before I leave to wrap up my day, I tell him: "isn't it fascinating how easy it is to connect with people located in the opposite corner of the world? How incredible it is to be in one place but after the click of a button suddenly be transported somewhere very far away, in a place whose culture, traditions, identity, and history are so different from my own?". "Oh yes, the world is a big place, but Zoom makes it smaller!".

For me, being able to participate in the VIA program in Singapore is truly a unique opportunity, not only to get work experience at one of the fastest-growing economies of the world but also to learn how to be an effective coworker in a culturally diverse setting and to learn about a country, a language and people different from my own. I have deep admiration for Singapore and the amazing progress that it has accomplished in just 56 years, and I am hopeful that this internship will shed some light on some of the factors that made the young nation precisely the success it is today. 

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The Virtual Internships Abroad (VIA) program provides self-directed and motivated Penn undergraduate students the opportunity to gain a fully funded professional work experience over the summer with a global employer, with the added convenience of working remotely.