Leading Across Cultures: Internship Seminar

You are here

Course Information
Internship Seminar
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


Additional student cost: 



This course provides an introduction to the cultural context for the internship placement by examining cultural issues in the workplace with a particular focus on preparation for entering the work environment. Writing and discussion topics also introduce the concept of skill-building in cross-cultural competencies including cross-cultural communication, teamwork, and conflict mediation.  The course consists of two parts: online pre-departure modules that prepare students for culturally appropriate résumé development and interviewing skills to facilitate proper placements, and on-site classroom discussions to enable students to process what they experience at the internship host organizations.   

Attendance policy: 

Students are required to participate in all online and seminar meetings. Students must receive instructor’s prior permission for any excused absence and more than one absence will result in a negative impact on your grade, regardless of the reason for the absence.

Students are expected to report to work on time and to be professionally dressed every day they are scheduled to work. Students may not ask employers to change their schedule or to leave work early unless prior permission is received from the IES Internship Coordinator. If a student cannot report to work due to illness, s/he should notify their supervisor and the IES Internship Coordinator immediately. Unexcused absences, extended breaks or lunch hours and leaving the work site early are all causes for Administrative Review, as stipulated in IES Abroad Student Policies.

Regular attendance in the internship seminar is mandatory. For every absence, 3 percentage points will be deducted from the final grade. More than 4 absences will result in an administrative review that may lead to a failing grade, inability to continue with the internship placement, and/or dismissal from the program. Attendance at the last seminar meeting is critical to helping you translate your internship experience into your job search preparation. Students who miss the final seminar meeting will receive a failing grade for the course.

Learning outcomes: 
By the end of this course and the internship placement, students will be able to:  
  1. Apply written and oral communication skills that are appropriate to the work environment.  
  2. Demonstrate career search skills including preparing a résumé and cover letter, conducting Skype interviews, networking and using social media tools such as LinkedIn to create a professional network. 
  3. Describe and analyze cultural differences in the workplace based on critical incidents.   
  4. Demonstrate ability to analyze personal professional strengths and weaknesses.  
  5. Demonstrate knowledge and skills required to work on cross-cultural teams. 
  6. Synthesize the experiences of the internship placement in a revised résumé.   
Method of presentation: 

In both the online and classroom segments, the seminar provides a robust learning environment with active discussion of readings, integration of internship experiences, and field studies.  The seminar meets for 25 contact hours.  Students spend 176-320 clock hours at the internship placement site, depending on the needs of the host company. 

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Active participation in online content - 10%
  • Active participation in seminar based on assigned reading - 10%
  • Weekly Internship journal - 15%
  • Short analytical paper based on a seminar topic and related to the internship experience - 25%
  • On-site evaluation by work supervisor via a midpoint progress meeting and final evaluation utilizing IES Abroad metric - 40%
  Internship Journal Weekly Journal entries track your learning and development at the placement. Entries should include work activities, critical incidents that gave you insight into the work environment, observations of how leadership is exercised, and reading responses.  At least two of the writing assignments are ‘directed.’ Each journal entry should be 2-3 type-written pages, double-spaced (500-750 words).   Analytical Paper Your analytical paper is an opportunity for you to evaluate your overall internship experience as well as your personal and professional development over the course of the semester. This is also an opportunity to reflect upon the ways in which your own values, experiences, interests, beliefs, and cultural preferences have influenced your learning experience while living and working abroad. The paper should include a description of your observations, differences noted between your home and host cultures that may have played a role in work situations and how you think your global competence has been strengthened by what you have learned from your experiences. The paper should be 5-6 typewritten pages, double spaced. 
SESSION 1: Intro to Course Content & Placement Process  (30 min, online predeparture) (Faculty) Introduction to the course content and requirements; introduction to the internship placement requirements and the internship contract. The concept of reciprocity in the internship placement.    Reading:  
  • How to avoid being the ugly American when doing business abroad. Case study by Andrew Rosenbaum. Harvard Business School 
  • Students should be provided with resources to learn about the local culture prior to departure. 
  Directed Journal entry:    Describe your learning goals for the internship and how you believe the experience may contribute to your future career.    SESSION 2: Intro to Resume Writing  (30 min, online predeparture) (Internship Coordinator) Introduction to résumé writing; international résumé formats; review and feedback of students’ résumés.    Reading:  
  • Auzenne, M., & Horstman, M. (2005). Your Résumé Stinks! Available: http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/10/your-résumé-stinks Accessed: 30 October, 2012. (podcast).  
  • Local résumé guidelines to be provided by IES Center 
  Deliverable:  Students submit résumés for review and revise as necessary.    SESSION 3: Interview Coaching & Placement Interviews  (30 min, online, predeparture) (Internship Coordinator) Overview of preparing for an interview including common interview questions and techniques for online interviews; practice interviews with Center staff; employer interviews in the host city.  Professional expectations in the host country (dress, punctuality, office behavior, use of internet & technology).    Reading:  
  • IES Internships Student Preparation Manual 
  • Local interviewing guidelines to be provided by IES Center 
  Deliverable:  Students participate in practice interviews with IES staff and then with potential host companies.    SESSION 4: Introduction to Cultural Analysis Toolkit   (60 min, online, pre-departure) (Faculty) Introduction to the Cultural Analysis Toolkit; Communicating across cultures: communication styles and how to communicate effectively with supervisors; introduction to networking and the role of social media in developing a professional network.    Reading:  
  • Mendez, Deirdre (2013). Cultural Analysis Toolkit: Navigating International Business Culture, The University of Texas at Austin CIBER: 3-44 
  • Early, P. Christopher and Mosakowski, Elaine (2004).  Best Practice: Cultural Intelligence in Harvard Business Review: 139-146 
  • China profile, Library of Congress, 2006. https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/cs/profiles/China.pdf (42 pages)
  Deliverable:  Take the Self-Test for each feature in the Cultural Analysis Toolkit and chart your own cultural profile on page 30 of the Toolkit. Be ready to discuss your own profile and cultural biases in On-site Session 6. In particular, be ready to describe your own communication style and what you can do to adapt to the communication style of your supervisor and host culture.    SESSION 5: Case Discussion  (2.5 hours, online predeparture) (Faculty) Case discussion about the local impact of the recent worldwide economic crisis, the interactions between the national economy and the labor market and their combined impact on job opportunities, workplace demographics, and internship placements. In addition, an overview of relevant factors for working and living in the internship destination.    Reading:   Deliverable:  Be ready to discuss your internship destination’s economic challenges in On-site Session 6.    SESSION 6: Introduction to the Local Environment  (2.5 hours on-site) (Faculty) On-site introduction to the local environment. Review of Online Sessions 4 and 5, seminar and internship expectations.  Discussion about unique features of the local population.    Review of Online Sessions 4 & 5: Small group discussions on interns’ cultural biases before general class discussion on culture. Groups should include a mix of 3-Credit and 6-Credit students. Class discussion on current local economic profile, challenges and impact on internship placements. Discussion of interns’ previous internship experiences and challenges, and general expectations regarding summer internships and internship location.     Reading:  The culture of China, Chap. 1-2, Edited by Kathleen Kuiper, Britannica Educational, 2011 (302 pages)   SESSION 7: History, Politics and Economy of the Host City  (2.5 hours on-site) (Faculty)     Reading:   SESSION 8: Cultural Assessment Toolkit  (2.5 hours on-site) (Faculty) Learn how to identify cultural features without falling into the trap of stereotyping. Understand the impact of stereotypes and cultural differences on judgment and decision making. Groups created in first on-site Session re-form for group and class discussions – including ongoing Cultural Analysis Project.    Reading:    Deliverable:  Each group will be given a joint task to culturally analyze their workplaces and their internship city and other locations they visit during the summer – groups will report back in the subsequent shared 3-Credit and 6-Credit Session on Lessons Learned. You should keep in mind that your experiences in a given internship may not necessarily be indicative of the national culture.     SESSION 9:  Stereotypes and Cultural Differences  (2.5 hours on-site) (Faculty) Discuss the observations you have made at your internship workplace using the Cultural Assessment Toolkit as a framework.  What have you learned from observation, conversation, written materials and/or meetings?  What are your own preferences and what challenges do you face in this new environment? What strategies are you using to achieve your goals? Groups created in first on-site Session re-form for group and class discussions – including ongoing Cultural Analysis Project.    Reading:    SESSION 10: Networking  (2.5 hours on-site) (Internship Coordinator & Faculty) Following up from the introduction presented in Session 4, learn more about how professionals develop their network in the local environment. Learn the role of social media, personal contacts and professional organizations in one’s network.  Develop an understanding of how networking influences employment opportunities and career development.  Practice introducing yourself or others in a culturally appropriate manner in preparation to attend a professional networking event.    Readings: (Re-introduce readings on Networking for Online Session 4 – see below - and/or new readings and location-specific materials)    SESSION 11: International Careers & Local Job Opportunities  (2.5 hours on-site) (Internship Coordinator & Faculty) Learn about opportunities to internationalize your career, including resources available to job seekers in the local environment.    Readings:   SESSION 12: Lessons Learned: Student Presentations  (2.5 hours on-site) (Internship Coordinator & Faculty) Students present their “lessons learned” from their internship experiences.  This may be based on the analytical paper due at the end of the course and/or the Cultural Analysis Toolkit materials.    Deliverable:  Final analytical paper due    SESSION 13: Incorporate Your Internship into Your Career Search   (2.5 hours on-site) (Internship Coordinator & Faculty) Workshop on incorporating your internship experience into your résumé and describing it in a job application and during an interview.    Directed Journal Entry:   What do you think are the three main new skills you have acquired from your internship? Think critically. These may be hard skills such as learning how to use social media for an organization or they may be "soft skills" such as working with people from different cultures.    Deliverable:  Students submit revised résumés and practice discussing their internships with IES staff and classmates.   
Required readings: 
Additional requirements: 
You must submit résumés electronically to the Internship Coordinator.  The Internship Coordinator will provide feedback on your résumé and will also arrange for a practice Skype interview with IES staff.  Once the résumé and interview coaching have been completed, the Internship Coordinator will match you with a possible host organization and arrange a Skype or telephone interview.  When you and the host organization agree to the match, both parties sign an agreement detailing the project(s) to be completed. During the internship, you will have a supervisor on site at the host organization. You will submit weekly status reports to your supervisor and to the Internship Coordinator. The Internship Coordinator will check in with you regularly and should be contacted immediately if any issues arise at the placement site.       You are expected to report to work on time and to be professionally dressed every day you are scheduled to work. You may not ask employers to change your schedule or to leave work early unless prior permission is received from the IES Internship Coordinator.  If you cannot report to work due to illness, you should notify your supervisor and the IES Internship Coordinator immediately.  Unexcused absences, extended breaks or lunch hours and leaving the work site early are all causes for Administrative Review, as stipulated in IES Abroad Student Policies.