Erin McCoy, senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, was eager to study in Italy when her study abroad program was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, she had just applied for a scholarship under the US State Department’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which provides funding to study abroad for students who receive Federal Pell Scholarships.
“They informed me that I received the scholarship in July 2020, but I was not sure if I was going to be able to use it because everything was delayed,” said McCoy, a major in health, physical education and science. from exercise to College of Humanities and Sciences. “The last time I could use it was winter 2021, and it wasn’t going to work with my oldest child. [year] calendar.”
With the help of VCUs Global Education Office, McCoy was eventually able to complete the internship virtually through the Sant’Anna Institute in the coastal town of Sorrento, Italy. The Global Education Office has been working with Sant’Anna’s summer program for the past five years.
âWe usually send a few faculty members to Sant’Anna so that students can take a course and also do an internship,â said Stephanie Tignor, director of education abroad at the Global Education Office. âIt’s a unique little program. This gives VCU students the opportunity to study in a different environment than they have here.
In McCoy’s five-week virtual summer internship, she worked with Sant’Anna to develop an outreach plan for the Association for the Integration of Women, an Italian organization that supports migrant women in Modena, Italy. .
âThe president of the organization is American and formerly of Sant’Anna. It was cool to work with her because students who study abroad face language barriers, âsaid McCoy.
Sant’Anna helps refugee women by training them to become chefs and cooks. During McCoy’s internship, she worked on trying to find places that would employ women.
âI did a lot of research and did things for social media,â she said. âI also produced a three-page information leaflet to send to future employers.
McCoy participated in weekly meetings with the director of Sant’Anna and also with the supervisor of the association.
âWe would do a lot of freelance work. We would meet virtually at the end of the week for any major projects, âsaid McCoy, noting that the association is starting a restaurant and using some of the graphics it created.
The virtual internship gives students the opportunity to develop an international network and engage with people in another country, Tignor said.
âWhen the pandemic hit, a lot of institutions had to be innovative and change course to be able to offer something else to students,â Tignor said. “Virtual internships are an exciting new type of global learning experience available to VCU students that was not available prior to the pandemic.”
The virtual internships were a “positive development of the pandemic and it’s something that will survive the pandemic,” Tignor said. âThey are here to stay.
McCoy’s internship helped her determine what kind of healthcare provider she wants to be in the future.
âIt was a great experience,â said McCoy, who wants to use his degree to help people in disadvantaged communities around the world. âIt motivated me to find something I could do and to travel abroad. On the contrary, it really inspired me.
McCoy and other candidates work with Education Abroad staff in VCU‘s Global Education Office to apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Contact the Global Education Office at [email protected].
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