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Global Internships Provide “Cross-Cultural” Work Experiences for SJU Students

September 1, 2015

Knowing several languages helped philosophy and French major Carlos Alvarez ’15C secure two internships in Paris, France, during the Spring 2014 semester.  “The experience,” he said, “allowed me to come out of my shell in another country.”

For students with advanced language skills, the University’s Office of Global Studies offers professional, cultural, and linguistic opportunities through internships at  St. John’s campuses in Rome, Italy,  and Paris, France, as well as its location in Seville, Spain. Students obtain work experience abroad while working in an Italian, French, or Spanish professional environment—learning the cultural codes as they use the native language.

“The ability to communicate in a different language, and to be knowledgeable of the demands and expectations of another culture, are skills that can greatly increase a student’s perspective of the world,” said Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., assistant provost for global initiatives, chair of the Department of Languages and Literatures, and associate professor of French.

At Développement Sans Frontières (DSF)—a recruitment agency focusing on international humanitarian aid—Alvarez translated contracts from French to English and Spanish. “Being part of the work and dedication that goes into every single document was extremely rewarding,” he said. “And, in the end, my language skills were perfected.”

Alvarez later completed a second internship while in Paris at a French nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Association Pesinet, where he researched funding. The NGO strives to improve detection and early treatment of childhood diseases in Mali. “I met and networked with people I would have never had the chance to touch shoulders with had I not gone aboard.” Alvarez added, “I think Global Studies at St. John’s is unique in all that it has to offer. It gives students a plethora of choices to see and experience different cultures.”

Ljubinka Saraba ’16C, a Spanish major with an international business concentration, spent the Fall 2014 semester in Seville, Spain, where she interned as a receptionist at the Triana Backpackers hostel. “My experience was unique in many ways,” she said. “It wasn’t a typical desk job. I was expected to multitask throughout my day, writing and sending e-mails while maintaining the hostel’s database of reservations.” 

“Today, it’s not enough for students to tell a potential employer ‘I went abroad, and it was awesome,’” stressed Matthew G. Pucciarelli, associate vice president, Office of Global Studies. “They should be prepared to tell future employers how their experiences abroad will help them contribute to the workplace. SJU students who intern abroad are especially well poised to be employed by companies that advance work across cultures—or countries.”

Nicholas Gilmore ’15CPS, a hospitality management and Italian major, is spending the Spring 2015 semester working at an InterContinental Hotels Group property, the InterContinental De Le Ville, in Rome. “I have learned a whole new sector of the hospitality industry that I never experienced before—the hotel industry at the luxury level,” said Gilmore, who hopes to open an Italian restaurant upon his return. “Being able to experience college in both New York City and Roma has allowed me to grow and has given me enormous motivation.”