Sapphire Skye Toth reflects on her virtual internship with IES Abroad Vienna as a transformative, educational experience. Confronting the challenges of virtual work head-on, Sapphire demonstrated that remote work and learning can be monumental in its own ways.
In this interview, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) student shares stories of the deep impacts and career preparation that her virtual internship had, including encouraging her to get out of her comfort zone, learn more about the professional classical music world, and expand conversations with music masters via her podcast Chatting with Creators (CwC). Sapphire also shares the importance of her IES Abroad scholarship in paving the way for her to embark on this life-changing experience, noting that international work and education remained possible during a pandemic thanks to the generosity of the scholarship’s donors. Sapphire furthers her work beyond the internship by, not only freelancing with a local company, but memorializing the conversations in her podcast with hopes that they will influence students to come to explore a “change in classical learning pedagogy” as they globalize their mindsets. Thank you, Sapphire, for your time and for letting us learn more about your virtual internship experience! Read more about it below.
IES Abroad: How did you find out about the virtual internship program and why did you want to do a virtual, rather than in-person, internship?
SST: I found out about the virtual internship program from IES Internships College Relations Manager, Destiny Oppe when we met over Zoom to talk about my application to do an in-person internship in London. The London (and all European programs) got cancelled for the summer of 2021. This was the third time my opportunity to study abroad got cancelled, and because of my degree requirements I knew that I wouldn't get another chance to make studying internationally part of my undergraduate experience. So, I decided to do the virtual internship so that I would have an opportunity to make international learning part of my time with UNL.
IES Abroad: How has your virtual summer internship affected you personally, academically, and potentially professionally?
Saphire Skye Toth (SST): My virtual internship allowed me to get outside of my United States bubble and experience the professional classical music world on an international level. As a person, the internship allowed me to take my communication and critical thinking skills to a new level because I worked with people with very different experiences from my own and was exposed to new cultures. Academically, it allowed me to take my classical music training (from being a Music major) and my business training (from my Business minor) and see how to use them in the practical world. Professionally, the internship allowed me to expand my network and earn a place as a freelance writer for the company Career Compass.
IES Abroad: How do you feel your internship experience prepared you for your future career? Do you think you were at more of an advantage or disadvantage having your internship being virtual?
SST: I feel like my internship prepared me for my future career because it allowed me to gain professional experience in Arts Administration that I don’t have easy access to in my location, and it helped me to greatly expand my network of music professionals. While I was put at an economic advantage and health (due to the pandemic) advantage with the internship being virtual, I felt I was at a disadvantage for being able to learn about Austrian culture as directly due to being remote.
IES Abroad: Tell us about something that you did during your internship that was impactful.
SST: During my internship, I produced three special episodes of my podcast Chatting with Creators to highlight three artists from some of Paladino’s [my virtual internship host] latest album releases. CwC is a podcast I created a year ago where I interview professionals in the music world about their lives/projects specifically for collegiate music students. In crafting the scripts and running the interviews, I had to quickly adapt my usual conversation cues to fit their way of speaking/describing and in the process, I learned so much about their pedagogy and thought process. I got to speak to musicians from Austria, Germany, and an American who had moved to Vienna.
These interviews were posted to Spotify so that our conversations could be learning tools for music students all over the world. So often, music students don’t get to learn about contemporary styles of classical music from the masters—and it’s even rarer to get an international perspective. These episodes have helped to make the teachings of Bernhard Lang, Eric Lamb, and Friedemann Eichhorn more accessible.
IES Abroad: Were you assigned a particular project during your internship? If so, please describe the project and your role.
SST: Aside from my Chatting with Creators episodes during my internship I was also tasked with proofreading album booklets for English-speaking audiences, proofreading social media posts, and doing administrative work such as organizing metadata on spreadsheets.
IES Abroad: Could you explain a typical ‘day in the life’ on a day you were working at your internship (meetings, tasks, etc.)?
SST: For me, a typical "day in the life" at my internship started with lots of emails. Emails to my supervisor, clients I was interviewing, and the teacher of my Moodle course. Once a week, I'd also have a Zoom meeting with my supervisor. I'd spend 2-4 hours working on the various tasks that I'd been assigned for the week, and I'd send them to my supervisor. The rest of the day was spent working at my other jobs.
IES Abroad: Did the fact that your internship was virtual allow you to do other things during the work week, like go to school, have a part-time job, etc?
SST: Because my internship was virtual, I was able to work two part-time jobs this summer and score a short film.
IES Abroad: How did you get to know and become part of the team with the organization you worked with in Vienna, even though you were remote? What did learn from working in a cross-cultural capacity?
SST: Since Paladino Media is a small company, I only worked with one person the whole time aside from the artists I interviewed for Chatting with Creators. Having weekly meetings and daily emails made it easy for us to have a strong connection and stay on the same page. I made sure to work in the mid-morning while it was late afternoon in Austria so that we often were working at the same time. In the cross-cultural capacity, I learned a lot about how artists from different backgrounds address pedagogy and have slightly different career focuses than artists in the United States. During my interviews I also learned a lot about different conversational cues and preferences that I wouldn't have learned without practical experience.
IES Abroad: What short- and long-term outcomes from the project have/or will benefit the public and/or social services of others?
SST: My Chatting with Creators episodes will make the international views on contemporary classical music accessible to any college student with a Spotify account. My hope is that in the short-term these episodes will help students learn how to ask questions and expose themselves to the contemporary pieces in classical music. In the short-term, I hope that as students begin to ask more questions it will lead to a change in standard classical training pedagogy. These CwC episodes might just be one step in leading to that change, but my internship has shown me how to continue taking those steps.
IES Abroad: How did an IES Abroad scholarship help support your endeavors?
SST: My Summer Social Impact Internship Scholarship meant there was a way for me to have some kind of study abroad—even if it had to be digital—when my previous attempts had been cancelled three times due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic and my degree’s scholarship schedule. The scholarship made it possible for me to make working internationally part of my undergraduate education. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the program without it.
Learn more about our Virtual Internship Program, how it works, the benefits, and placements/locations we offer to add global brilliance to your résumé. You can also learn more about our full-suite of Scholarship & Aid opportunities.