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Spanish and Portuguese Dept. cancels summer abroad programs, as IIP and PICS begin accepting applications

While some University-sponsored summer programs are planning for a fully virtual model, PICS and IIP intend to host a mix of in-person and virtual opportunities

<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

The Spanish and Portuguese department has canceled its summer abroad programs in Argentina, Portugal, and Spain, citing concerns surrounding international travel.

“Planning a study abroad program takes months of work and resources not only for us here in Princeton, but also for our hosting institutions abroad,” Senior Lecturer and Spanish Language Program Director Alberto Bruzos told The Daily Princetonian. “For our department that has three different study abroad programs, the amount of energy and resources that goes into planning high-quality study abroad programs is quite considerable.”

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In the absence of these in-person abroad programs, the department plans to fully invest in developing a set of online summer courses. In a message to students on Oct. 30, department administrators solicited feedback on potential offerings.

“We don’t know yet which courses we’ll be offering in the summer, but we want them to be as meaningful as possible to our students,” added Department Chair Pedro Meira Monteiro. “And, of course, we intend to resume our summer programs in Spain, Argentina and Portugal in 2022, when we all believe the pandemic will be gone.”

The Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), which usually hosts several six-week Global Seminars each summer, has also shifted to virtual programming.

PIIRS “is preparing five to six virtual international seminars for the summer 2021,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ Information about these seminars will be posted online in early December, with the application process beginning in the new year, according to Hotchkiss.

While these University-sponsored summer programs have adopted a fully-virtual model, the International Internship Program (IIP) and Princeton Internships in Civil Service (PICS)  both opened applications for in-person positions earlier this month.

This year, both programs are offering a mix of around 200 in-person and virtual internships.

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IIP allows undergraduates to undertake eight-week summer internships outside the United States, placing students in around 50 countries, spanning over six continents. The program has a heavy emphasis on allowing students to “fulfill personal and academic goals,” “contribute to the ‘service of humanity,’” and “make connections on- and off-campus.”

PICS offers undergraduates eight-10 week internship opportunities at nonprofit organizations over the summer. These are mostly based across the United States, with a few conducted internationally. This program focuses on “engaging in meaningful service,” “connecting academic lessons to real-world problems,” and “developing leadership skills.”

For summer 2021, the IIP office has announced on its website that “in-country internships will be contingent on a number of factors including University travel guidelines, government travel restrictions, and public health advice.”

All internship offerings on its website have already been identified as in-person, in-person with a virtual plan, and virtual.

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The IIP office “encourage[s] all students to apply to at least one remote IIP placement and/or have a fully remote back-up plan.”

This plan is based on the program’s experience with summer 2020. According to Hotchkiss, “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IIP pivoted to a remote program in summer 2020. Still, IIP was able to offer 106 students internships at 73 organizations across 32 countries.”

“With more time to collaborate with program partners this year, IIP's focus has been to carefully plan for the possibility of another summer of remote work,” he added.

Carmen Chen ’21, who participated in an in-person IIP Dubai internship around transportation engineering in summer 2019, stated that “one of the highlights was living in the city itself.”

Though she believes that her internship, which mainly involved computer work, could be virtually conducted if needed, she believes that dealing with a time zone difference and “not being able to ask questions directly to people in [the] office” could pose challenges.

Still, Chen said she feels “there's definitely value in doing the program, even if it's virtual. If you want to see if you enjoy doing work related to your major, IIP is a good way to test it out.”

To help students get the most of virtual international internships, Hotchkiss noted that IIP will run a pre-program orientation for guidance, will host one-on-one meetings during the summer to address student questions and concerns, and is encouraging students to synchronously participate so that they can join team meetings. 

He added that “IIP hopes to be able to finalize internship format by mid-to-late spring to allow students adequate time to plan.”

Regarding the status of PICS for summer 2021, PICS Director Caroline Savage told the ‘Prince’ that “we hope that PICS internships can take place in-person. Personally I think we are likely to see a mix of in-person and virtual internships.”

About 70 percent of current PICS partners have indicated that they will be able to support a virtual internship if necessary. Decisions on whether internships are in-person or remote will be made on a case-by-case basis, in coordination with individual community partners, according to Savage. In the case that the pandemic worsens considerably in the spring, a program-wide decision requiring virtual internships can be expected in March or April.

Savage recalled that PICS was in a difficult position planning for summer 2020. The timing of the pandemic coincided with when PICS students would normally be sent into the field. “Could we even do PICS at all? If so, how can we do it safely, and also how could we do it in a way that was fair?”

Ultimately, PICS made a program-wide decision to cancel all in-person internships for summer 2020. Of the approximately 200 internships offered, around 100 moved forward virtually. Some students with canceled internships were connected to other internship opportunities through the Pace Center for Civic Engagement.

Throughout the transition process, PICS drew on University resources and alumni networks to support their students. The program offered professional development workshops, coffee chats, and other opportunities for connection. Still, the virtual environment posed unique challenges.

“This year [summer 2020], a lot of our students were learning in real time with their supervisors about that virtual work environment,” Savage said.

Kennedy Collins ’22, having completed a virtual House of Representatives internship offered by PICS in summer 2020, agreed that “the biggest challenge was just adjusting to a pandemic, moving online, and figuring out how you could still have a rewarding internship.”

“We definitely missed the hustle and bustle of being in an office where people are consistently calling about constituent concerns versus at home everything being virtual, more planned, and a lot slower pace[d].”

She cited Zoom fatigue as another issue faced during the internship.

Even with these virtual environment challenges, Collins said that because she had never done work in government before, the internship experience helped her understand what to look for in a job.

“I would definitely say that it was very rewarding all around,” she said.

This positive internship experience along with a smooth application process, with support from both the Center for Career Development and PICS, leads Collins to “definitely recommend it [PICS].”

With many paid internship opportunities drying up for summer 2021, Savage expects more student applicants this year. PICS and IIP applications are both due on Dec. 7, at 5 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET respectively.

One interested applicant, Eudan Mojados ’24, is planning on applying to both virtual and in-person IIP internships for summer 2021. Mojados said he recognizes areas where a virtual internship would pale in comparison to the in-person experience.

“You’ll never get one percent [of the] immersion in culture as you would if you were actually roaming the streets when you have free time, or getting to know the food, the people, or their language,” he noted.

Even in an online setting, though, Mojados is looking to learn networking skills from those around him and benefit from guidance from potential colleagues.

“You’re also getting lectures, mentors, and friends for whenever something gets difficult,” he said.

“The way I approached it is as long as I can get actual hands-on experience that'll help me sometime in the future, it just doesn't really [matter] to me if it is online or in-person.”

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