International placements succeed virtually 

 

An international experience is compulsory for undergraduate students on two of our degree pathways – International Business (IB) and Masters in International Business and Modern Languages (MIBML). IB students typically go abroad for one semester to be taught business subjects in English and MIBML students are required to go abroad for a full year to be completely immersed in the modern language they are studying (Spanish, French or Italian). 
 
Given the pandemic and the impact on international travel we looked at alternate arrangements for our students and offered them the alternative of virtual industry projects. 
 
Students were placed with volunteer organisations where the preferred language of communication is one of the three languages - French, Spanish or Italian - or companies with dealings in Europe, Latin America or French-speaking Canada. Students had to devote 20 hours each week to undertake the project and we were delighted to get many companies sign up for this initiative. Projects were for four months beginning September 2020 on a part-time basis. 

Projects were varied; for example, undertaking market research, analysing market entry strategies, researching local partners, reviewing regulations, and so on, but all involved using their language skills. 

Some students are continuing to work with the business sponsor into the summer months and some have been offered employment opportunities.  
 

One of the students who worked on a virtual project was Maria Manca who is a fourth year International Business with Spanish student. She said, "I started my virtual placement in September 2020 with a part-time contract that was supposed to last until mid-January. Due to the fact that travel restrictions were still in place at the start of the new year, my exchange to ESAN University in Lima, Peru had to be cancelled, so I preferred to continue working for the same company than go on exchange in Spain. My decision was motivated by the fact that in the previous months I had developed a deep interest in what was a completely new sector to me: Privacy and Data Security. I was curious enough to work on more tasks and develop new skills in this field to give up on my exchange plans. Now that I have (almost) completed my placement experience I am extremely happy to have made such decision, because it has also allowed me to grow my professional network and build some important interpersonal relationships as well. 

“I covered a Privacy Analyst position in the Information Security and Data Protection team at Crayon, which consisted of supporting the team in daily activities and also working independently in some projects, mainly relating to marketing and GDPR compliance. Concerning the language used, I spoke Spanish in daily activities with my supervisor and we also had weekly informal calls to allow me to develop my language skills. The rest of the tasks were covered in English, the company’s official language. Looking back at the start of the placement, it is amazing to notice how my Spanish skills improved not only professionally, but also in a more informal setting. 

“Working remotely certainly meant that I had to adapt to many new aspects. For example, using (audio-only) calls to communicate was challenging at the start - especially when in Spanish - due to the fact that many body language signs, meanings, and other forms of communication were missed. However, with practice it became easier and this also allowed me to improve my Spanish listening skills faster. 

“Overall, I am extremely grateful to have been given this invaluable opportunity and also satisfied at the progress I have made both professionally and personally along the way.” 

Patrick Arsenault, Director, Avantage Ontario, and a graduate of Strathclyde Business School, offered one of the placements. He said, “After seeing a publication about the virtual internship program on LinkedIn, I decided to reach out to explore partnership opportunities with my alma mater. In the end, the fact that this internship was virtual was not a hindrance in our case. This was a brilliant experience on so many levels. First, our intern allowed us to take on new challenges. Second, I really found this mentorship opportunity valuable. It was a rich experience that allowed me to grow as a leader. I could not be happier with the experience.” 

For more information on these virtual placements, please contact kathryn.wylie@strath.ac.uk 

Published: 7 June 2021



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