Virtual Internships Abroad Virtually Interning at a Singaporean Startup

September 3, 2020
By Brandy Yuan, SEAS '23

When I first heard that my GRIP engineering internship in Shenzhen had been canceled back in February, I was saddened but not surprised given the escalating severity of the virus. My placement was subsequently relocated to Seoul, though it too was canceled as the virus continued to progress.

Despite the two cancellations, I knew that I still wanted to have an active and productive summer break, so when I received an email asking if I was interested in a virtual internship, I happily agreed.

I was partnered with a small startup in Singapore. I recall that when I first received news of this company, a quick Google search of the name returned no results, as they were still in the preliminary stage of development. However, they had a big vision in mind: to introduce a one-stop shopping platform to consumers in Southeast Asia.

I joined their internal development team, which was in the process of creating a mobile e-commerce app that would aggregate content from various popular women’s clothing stores in Singapore. In this team, I was tasked with helping build the web crawler that would enable the sites’ data to be displayed on the app. Initially, this was a very daunting task, and I had little confidence that I would be able to accomplish it given my limited technical experience -- in fact, I wasn’t even very familiar with parsing HTML at the time. However, over the course of the internship, I attained proficiency in Javascript - a language in which I had no prior experience - and came to understand SQL and database systems as well. I still remember how proud I felt when I successfully built and ran the crawler for the first website, Lovet SG.

Daily catch-ups with my supervisor along with Q&A sessions with the external development team enabled me to quickly catch on to the more technical demands of the internship while also establishing a deeper bond with the company members. As my internship neared its end, I was truly grateful for not only the educational knowledge I had obtained, but also for the great relationships I had made along the way.

It can be very daunting trying to get a CS internship in your freshman year, especially for students like me who did not possess any knowledge of coding prior to college. However, though I went into this internship with practically zero knowledge of mobile app development, web scraping, or database management, I left with a great feeling of advancement in all these areas. Equally as important, this virtual experience has created real-world relationships -- my company has even offered to invite me to Singapore as a means of thanks once the pandemic settles. Even if that won’t happen until way down the line, I know that I can continue to rely on virtual correspondence and remote opportunities.