College of Science and Engineering student Jane Schaefer has spent the last two years learning math and problem solving skills—typical engineering coursework. Fall 2020 offered her a different perspective.
Schaefer spent 20 hours a week doing technical writing and marketing for a solar panel startup company based in Dublin, Ireland, through the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center’s Virtual International Internship program. Her job was to author an e-book (“An Irish Homeowner’s Guide to a Zero-Carbon Home”) that educated the Irish public on how solar energy works and other ways to make homes more energy efficient.
“I realized that my major is really specific with the classes I had to take, so there aren’t a lot of chances for me to go abroad,” said Schaefer, a sophomore majoring in bioproducts and biosystems engineering. “I thought that was cool to work in marketing, having a break from my normal engineering duties and getting to write something because that’s something engineers don’t typically get to do.”
The Learning Abroad Center introduced the four-credit virtual internships program during COVID-19. While it is by no means a replacement for an in-person semester or two-week seminar abroad, it provides something different: a way for students to gain valuable experience from the convenience of their homes.