Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Where Will the World Take You? U.Va.’s New Global Internship Program May Provide the Answer

The U.S. jobs market faltered in December, giving college students another reason to worry about employment prospects. But University of Virginia students are about to get another leg up in the job market, thanks to a new global internship program.

The University is drawing upon its alumni, friends and partners around the world to create a global internship program for students from every school. The new program will not only offer interns crucial on-the-job-training, but it will also provide valuable, cross-cultural experiences they will need to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.

“It will help globalize the University and our students,” said Majida Bargach, U.Va.’s new director of global internships. “I think it is very important today to send our students abroad to study and to work. I think those are two things every student should have before graduating. We know that major companies are more likely to hire students with work-abroad experience.”

Bargach said there is a deep pool from which to draw. Beside alumni and friends, U.Va. also will work with its partners around the world, including Universitas 21, a leading global network of research universities of which U.Va. is a partner.

“Most of the internships will probably be unpaid,” she said. “But we will encourage employers to provide paid opportunities.”

The internships will last either a summer or entire semester and are open to every level of student. Bargach is exploring the possibility of offering grant money and will use fundraising mechanisms to make the program as accessible as possible.

She said students will be totally immersed in the work environment abroad. “I think we will have internships in different types of professional settings, from research centers to non-governmental organizations to corporations to museums. … It’s going to be global and interdisciplinary,” she said.

Students are increasingly seeking these types of opportunities. Carla Derrick, a fourth-year French and economics double-major from San Salvador, El Salvador, is interested in global development and views an international internship as not only a resume-builder, but as a self-growth opportunity.

“I am very interested in global development and want a way to incorporate my degree in economics here at U.Va. and my passion to travel to make a difference in a real-world setting,” she said. “I went to Morocco this past summer on a six-week study-abroad program, and l learned so much about a different culture and so much about myself. I can't wait to get back out there but actually do work.”

Bargach said she will be building the program in concert with the University Internship Program, which places U.Va. interns in public and private sector organizations in the Charlottesville area, University Career Services and others relevant groups.

The program is a product of Executive Vice President and Provost John D. Simon. Bargach will report to Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeffrey W. Legro.

“U.Va. students, who know something about self-governance and making things happen, tend to excel in these applied positions,” Legro said. “In doing so, they will develop new skills and also enhance U.Va.'s reputation in a variety of career settings around the world.

“Majida is the perfect person to direct this program. She speaks four languages, has traveled widely, has worked in at least three different countries herself and is one of the most sophisticated, savvy and diplomatic people I know,” he said. “She also has long experience teaching and mentoring students. Put those traits together and you can see why she is well-positioned to develop a distinctive program for the University.”

Bargach, who also directs the U.Va. in Morocco program, was formerly the interim director of the Center for International Studies, now the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation. She is in the midst of creating a website for the new program. In the meantime, she said students can contact her directly.

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