Virtual Internships Abroad Wrapping Up

July 26, 2021
By Hannah Gu, Nursing '23

Fundación Casa de Los Niños - Heredia, Costa Rica

I feel more confident in my Spanish speaking abilities and am more comfortable making mistakes in the language. These abilities will definitely help me as I work in hospitals and encounter diverse patients and also in the future if I choose to travel abroad for vacations or work. I also feel as though I have improved my initiative-taking and increased the number of tasks that I can do at one time, as I was finishing up my internship as I worked at a summer camp full time. The many independent projects that I conducted were an excellent way for me to recall important health topics and learn how to best explain them in a manner understandable to a non-native speaker. Personally, I have always wanted to work abroad and was glad to take advantage of this experience during the pandemic. I developed better communication skills and a greater understanding of what was needed at this particular organization throughout my internship period. I was able to use these newly improved abilities to contribute a variety of educational materials specific to the audience of children in Costa Rica.

I was really thankful to attend the workshop on sign language for Spanish speakers and thought that was very engaging. Unfortunately, I do wish that I was able to attend other engagement opportunities, but was busy working full time as a camp counselor. I am appreciative of VIA's flexible scheduling and that I was able to do any work at all this summer besides my camp job. Learning more about my supervisor's experience living in Costa Rica, particularly during the pandemic, provided me with more insight into health abroad.

Prior to this experience, I don't think I realized just how difficult it is to learn English. As a native English speaker, I took my English speaking abilities for granted. Even though my parents are both immigrants, they were able to learn English themselves. Therefore I grew up surrounded by English speakers and was accustomed to others knowing slang and figures of speech. Yet many of the words or phrases that I would ordinarily choose to use for a presentation, either to make it more engaging or funny, would not have necessarily worked the best with this audience in particular. I also realized how little I know about the composition of Latin American countries and acknowledge that there is much more work for me to do in that area. This experience tied in surprisingly well with my camp job, where approximately 50% of the staff or more are Spanish speakers.

If I could go back to the person I was before the internship, I would say…

Dear Hannah,

Don't be nervous! Your supervisor will be great, and the language component will actually be more important than you think. There is a lot of flexibility with the position and a lot of the work that you will be doing is work that you are interested in or taking the lead on. I really recommend that you set deadlines for yourself so you don't fall behind, and to take advantage of the rest hours and free time that you had during orientation, as you will make your last call with Laura late as well. Have fun, stress less, and know that you will come out of this experience with a lot of valuable life lessons and skills.

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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.