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Innovative Undergraduate Internship Program Builds Cultural Competence and Functional Knowledge
This past summer, 16 undergraduates took part in the College of Business Administration's (CBA) first International Internship Program. The six-credit, 16-week program was developed by CBA Career Services, the Center for Executive Education (CEE), the International Business Center, Pitt Business faculty, and the University of Pittsburgh's Study Abroad Office. Students received 60 hours of intensive language and cultural training, both in Pittsburgh and in their target city: Beijing, China; Prague, Czech Republic; or São Paulo, Brazil, before embarking on a 10-week unpaid internship.
Clinical Associate Professor Bill Hefley accompanied five students to São Paulo, where these undergraduates continued to build their Portuguese language skills at Mackenzie Presbyterian University and visited businesses such as the Vespa stock exchange, the third largest in the world, before beginning their internships.
"All of these students had been abroad before," says Hefley. "Two had been on Semester at Sea, two had a full semester study-abroad experience, and one had spent time in northeast Brazil on a research project. So the challenges of exchanging money and communicating with parents were not first-time events for them."
Hefley adds that the CEE, through its Brazilian advisory board, assisted the students with finding jobs that were good fits with their backgrounds and interests. The students were placed in companies like The Dow Chemical Company and Abbott Laboratories, a global healthcare and medical research company. "One student, who is studying supply chain, worked at Dow and interacted with [the company's] employees in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and India, in addition to Brazil."
CEE's advisory board in Prague likewise helped to identify internships for the seven CBA students, advised by Visiting Lecturer Dan Dennehey, who traveled to Central Europe. Professor Robert Atkin supervised the four students with internships in Beijing.
J.P. Matychak, director of CBA Career Services, notes that this kind of intensive, immersion experience is an outstanding way to differentiate students from their peers. "It shows prospective employers that they can handle adversity and adjust to work cultures in foreign countries and enhances students' functional knowledge and skills within the context of global economics."