Considering the logistics of a virtual internship abroad, it may be challenging to picture what that may look like. How does the time difference work? Are there language barriers? What about cultural barriers?
I had all those thoughts as I thought about what my internship with the Vall d'Hebron Hospital would be like when the site is in Spain, but I am in Georgia, USA.
For me, the adjustment to a virtual internship abroad was significant. I had to learn quickly that things don't work the same way here as they do in Barcelona.
Sometimes, a day in my life would look very hectic. On top of my internship with Vall d'Hebron, I also held a part-time job and two other part-time internships. As you can imagine, I had a lot of long days. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed every minute of it.
During the week, I'd typically wake up around 6 a.m. I also do that during the school year, so it wasn't a massive change during the summer. However, I'd usually take about 15 to 30 minutes to contemplate life as I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to will myself to start the day. At around 6:30 a.m., I'd get ready for my day, shower, brush my teeth, and wash my face. That helped get me into the mindset of a started day.
I would typically start my internship work day at 7 a.m. I'd log onto my laptop and check my email for any updates I may have missed the previous day. My internship site in Barcelona, Spain, was six hours ahead of me in Eastern Time, so I'd often wake up to an email or two. Once my email is checked, I'd work for about two hours. Those two hours mainly consisted of research on various topics, including types of therapy, pros and cons of certain therapy methods, and even some therapy practice exercises. I would research for academic (classroom instruction), and private practice purposes since my supervisor did both.
After two hours of my internship, it's time to go to work! I usually grabbed breakfast at either Starbucks (a habit I developed on campus) or Chick-fil-A (my go-to fast food) and arrived at work at about 9:30 a.m. I've had this part-time job at a locally-owned merchandise production shop for almost two years. While at work, I'd usually find pockets of time to tie up any loose ends from the morning or respond to emails from either of my internships. During my lunch break at work, I always try and relax as much as possible. Being in front of a computer or on my feet for 90% of my day most of the time, a break is always appreciated.
My team would usually meet on Tuesdays. Those days, I would usually leave work around 1:30 p.m., so I could be settled by the time our 2:30 p.m. meeting came up. Here in the United States, a meeting is generally set for a specific duration, and we stick to that. In Barcelona, however, it was not uncommon for us to plan for a 30-minute meeting and end up there for an hour or more! Our meetings were never just business; we always made time for personal conversations, whether they concerned our week's topics or our daily lives.
The other days of the week, I'd usually get off work around 5:45 p.m. and head home to join a meeting for my other internship at 6 p.m. I am a firm believer in multitasking, so I'd typically plan out the rest of my night in that meeting. Once that meeting finished at 7 p.m., I'd always eat dinner, usually with my parents, so I had enough fuel to end the night strong.
At 7:30 p.m., I'd dive back into my work at Vall d'Hebron for another three hours. I had to complete at least 20 hours per week for my internship requirement for each of the ten weeks. I liked to give myself Fridays off, so I would usually do five-hour days Monday through Thursday. Most weeks, it worked out. If not, I wouldn't work more than three hours on a Friday.
At 10:30 p.m., I'd end my day by updating my hours tracker and checking my calendar for the next day.
It took me about two weeks to identify and stick to this schedule, but once I could work it out, I was performing well in my internships and still getting enough sleep, which was important. To anyone that is considering a virtual internship abroad (or any virtual internship) along with other responsibilities like a part-time job or even school, I recommend figuring out a consistent schedule that works for you. Consistency was my best friend this summer, and even on the days when things were a bit out of whack, I could still get back on track easily, thanks to the structure I had in place.
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Aliana Stanley is a Senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She is a Psychology and Political Science who plans to attend law school after graduation. In her free time, Aliana likes to spend time with friends and catch up on the latest trending Netflix show. She has a passion for helping others and learning new things. As she goes through life, she hopes to visit at least 6 of the 7 continents and be fluent in 4 languages other than English!