When Kassandra Alfaro ’21TCB was awarded a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, she hoped to have the international experience of which she always dreamed, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all study abroad programs for both the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
However, staff members of St. John’s University’s Office of International Education came up with a novel solution that allowed Ms. Alfaro to keep her scholarship—and experience an international culture in a virtual setting.
“I was set up with a virtual internship with the European Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (EIIT) in Italy, which enabled me to immerse myself in a corporation that has familiar—yet somewhat different—business practices than the US,” she recently said.
According to the Marketing major, the EIIT’s primary focus is providing informative and innovative courses for those striving to implement sustainable alternatives into their businesses. “One key aspect of the internship was learning what the company’s goals were, and how they impact their clients’ lives,” she stressed. “I learned so much about the Italian culture and how it impacts the running of a business, while experiencing a virtual work environment.”
Ms. Alfaro was assigned to work on their Space Entrepreneurship Course, marketing it to a niche group of potential clients. “My focus was on the growing space sector and new innovations in the industry that will unfold in the coming years.”
Since her arrival at St. John’s, Ms. Alfaro, who minored in Italian, hoped to study abroad; that was one of the reasons why she chose the University. In the Fall of 2020, she was slated to take a Global Destination Course through The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, which would have seen her travel to Greece, but it was canceled.
“It was disappointing,” she reflected. “But when one door closes, another opens.”
“Since middle school, I’ve been fascinated with the Italian culture, and I was excited to finally put my language skills to use,” explained Ms. Alfaro. “I also knew that St. John’s would provide me with excellent preparation for my future career. Their alumni network is unparalleled.”
She made excellent use of the University’s many extracurricular opportunities as a member of the Marketing Club and the nonprofit organization Women on Wall Street. She also participated in the Global Loan Opportunities for Budding Entrepreneurs microloan program, which provides loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world while helping students become better leaders.
During her time at St. John’s, Ms. Alfaro participated in several Midnight Runs sponsored by Campus Ministry, traveling into New York City to distribute food and other necessities to the homeless. “I discovered how fulfilling it is to give back to others in need, and to do it in a way that fosters deeper connections with my fellow students.”
She is very passionate about the marketing field. “I want to enhance my skills by working for companies that do meaningful things,” she stressed. “During my internship experiences, I’ve primarily worked for start-up companies, learning what it’s like to run a business from an entrepreneurial perspective. It’s not easy, but it was inspiring to work alongside driven entrepreneurs and leaders.”
She added, “I've been inspired to become an entrepreneur myself. I’m in the early stages of my career, so now is the time to learn more about marketing from professionals in the field, as well as business leaders and entrepreneurs, before embarking on my own journey.”
While Ms. Alfaro ultimately was not able to study abroad, she had high praise for St. John’s administrators and staff who were determined to give her some version of the international experience she craved. “I’m forever thankful for how the employees in the Office of International Education made my virtual study abroad experience possible. Sometimes things do not always go as planned, but you can find positive alternatives to every situation.”