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21 December 2020

International Diplomacy in Virtual South Africa

It was official. My St. Petersburg, Russia study abroad plans to polish my language studies and immerse myself into the culture for my career pursuits were officially canned. As the alarm bells chimed for the COVID-19 travel closings, I knew that my future aspirations to study abroad were as far from me as the shores of the Baltic Sea. But I was not deterred.

Equipped with the knowledge that I was only in my third year and that I could afford to bide my time until the storm had passed, I decided to take the initiative to venture out into the unknown. I figured that while everyone was adjusting their plans, that perhaps I could take the opportunity to try replacing my Russian travel arrangements with something just as beneficial to my international mediation pursuits. My eventual decision would take me sailing across some of the most frightening waters of my academic career into an unchartered territory that caused many a bold undergraduate to quake with fear: online internships.

Now where would one who is versed in Eastern European studies find a program suited for a career in international mediation? South Africa, of course! It was entirely unexpected. But as soon as the announcement fell into my inbox saying that positions for SIT’s brand-new virtual internship in diplomacy, conflict resolution, and international relations were open, I had to apply. But wait, this is in South Africa. Did I know anything about South Africa? …No. Did I find any other kinds of internships that fit so neatly into my academic and career plans as this one? …Also no. So I signed up, and I got in!

What settled some of my anxious nerves at the program’s outset was the knowledge that I, along with a small team of students, would be given a two-week orientation and a personalized crash-course of South African history. What I had not anticipated was the flexibility of the program and how spread out our entire team was. Not only were the program supervisors situated in their headquarters in Durban, South Africa, but many of my colleagues were located on opposite sides of the US and in other countries. Ooh, I’d have to get good at time zone math really quick! Our weekly synchronous sessions were all recorded and occurred at the convenience of both the supervisors and the students, so there was usually a lot of juggling on everyone’s part to make sure we could all be there and awake for the day’s lesson.

Despite our separation from one another over the virtual medium, the group’s dynamic was fantastic! We established an easy communications network via WhatsApp and email which allowed for us to help one another with our assignments and support each other during the rough seasons of the semester. The advisors always made themselves available for feedback and consultation, and the material we covered within a few weeks had given us the context needed to approach our semester-long task: the summary transcription of nearly 75 intergenerational dialogues across the world.

This semester as the world’s plans ground to a halt and nations had to prioritize the management of the pandemic, the non-government organization of ACCORD (the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes) decided to momentarily turn its attention away from African politics and focus on helping its partners in the UN. We as interns for SIT, were assigned to aid ACCORD in their Global Peace project. This project would encompass a series of intergenerational discussions conducted by prominent leaders and representatives of the youth across the world to find practical solutions to global issues. Our group was tasked reviewing, analyzing, and transcribing summaries of the most salient points drawn from these dialogues for the UN Secretary General’s viewing.
This was some of the most intellectually stimulating and interesting work I had ever undertaken thus far. Listening in on these dialogue sessions and figuring out how to tailor their points for positive action became one of my new favorite academic challenges. I persevered through the program, encouraged in the knowledge that what I was doing had an impact on the processes of peace in the UN. I got to hear discussions from nations including Namibia, Honduras, and Iran, all focused on finding ways to make the future a better place. Despite the variety of participating nations, there was a unanimous call for action to establish youth representation in government, encourage entrepreneurial education, and to replace corrupt institutions.

This internship allowed me to interact with the international community in a way that greatly improved my communication and writing skills. Although the internship work was conducted completely virtually, it significantly broadened my horizons, contributed to my international experiences, and allowed me to perceive the world in a way that enabled me to work more effectively in the processes of conflict resolution, diplomacy, and mediation. I couldn’t recommend a better program to those considering work in international relations. The patience of the supervisors and their commitment to helping students learn how to conduct international operations of peace surpassed that of anything I had found in the states.
I would encourage all students to never give up on exploring the different paths to achieving their goals. Study abroad may have been halted by a pandemic, but the internship I had decided to take a chance on ended up showing me more avenues to the kind of work I wanted to go into than what I had expected. I implore the students who are facing obstacles to their aspirations to take the initiative to find the hidden paths that lead to their goals. If it’s worth a try, then it’s worth your all.

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Amy McCampbell, a junior International & Global Studies major participated in SIT's virtual internship in South Africa: Diplomacy, Conflict Resolution & International Relations in Fall 2020. Learn more about SIT's virtual internships.

Interested in pursuing a virtual international internship? This innovative program allows students to put accessibility and mobility concerns aside to develop meaningful professional connections with international companies, NGOs, health and education organizations, and so on. Although it’s not a substitute for a traditional on-site experience, these programs provide a project-based pathway for students to connect with international organizations. Learn more about options to internationalize your degree plan by adding a virtual international internship to your semester.

14 December 2020

Achieving Professional Goals Through a Virtual Internship in Engineering #HogsAbroad (Virtually) in Germany

Blog post courtesy of USAC

Max Hedman, a computer engineering major at the University of Arkansas participated in USAC’s Global Perspectives Virtual Internship in Summer 2020. Hear how Max used this opportunity conducting research with a professor in Lüneburg, Germany to establish himself in his field of choice, network with professionals, and reach some pretty exciting career goals — all before graduation.

Why did you choose to participate in a virtual internship?

I was originally planning to study abroad out of country in order to strengthen my language skills. However, my plan was interrupted by COVID. I heard about USAC through my school’s study abroad office and I thought that taking a virtual internship would be a great way to participate in another culture while still improving my engineering skills.

How does a virtual internship fit into your academic and professional goals?

Academically, I was able to branch out to a different field of engineering that I had never worked with before, but had always interested me. The skills that I learned have already helped me out in my classes, and it gave me taste of what working in a professional setting is like.

What organization did you intern with and what is their primary function as a company?

I did not intern with an organization so much as with a professor. The purpose of the internship was more of a research internship with the end goal of generating novel ideas worthy of a paper. We performed tests using an advanced control scheme that we built in Matlab Simulink that simulated the pathing of our test robot, the Robotino.

What were your responsibilities? What did an average day look like for you?

First, as controls engineering was a new topic to me, I worked with the professor to learn the basics of control theory and in particular, SMC (Sliding Mode Control) and MPC (Model Predictive Control). My typical day during this phase of the internship would consist of educational zoom meetings and also self teaching of subjects like differential equations and linear algebra, math subjects that I had not taken in class, but would need for the project we would build.

Second, we built the program. The Simulink file that we started with was the results of the some of the professor’s work with his graduate students. This phase consisted of deriving equations which and then implementing them into Matlab Simulink. This was the most difficult phase as we had to root out and search for errors and figure ways to solve them when they became apparent. Most of what we built, we built while in a zoom meeting, so we could both see what was going on. This was a very satisfying part of the internship as many of the bugs we would find would take 10+ hours to solve. This was great as the problem solving feel of the entire thing is one of the reasons I want to be an engineer.

Third, once the program was mostly finished, barring several non-critical bugs, we started to put a lot of work into the paper. The professor and I both wrote different sections and made many edits until the end product was perfect and ready for submission into the conference.

Some of the work you did during your internship was published. Can you tell us more about that project?

The work that we published was a control scheme for an omnidirectional mobile robot. The control scheme used MPC (model predictive control) in order to generate an optimal trajectory that the robot would attempt to follow by using SMC (sliding mode control) which is a corrective, robust control strategy that compensates for error (both externally caused and natural physical limitations). The result is a low consumption scheme that can compensate for error and work around constraints (which can be implemented in the form of a cost function).

The paper has not been published yet as the conference is not until March, and papers are published in the conference proceedings, but we have submitted the paper and are waiting to hear if it will be accepted. The conference is tough to get into, but I feel we have a very strong subject for the paper, with a good simulation results to back it up.

Did you have to overcome any cultural obstacles during your internship (such as language barriers or different approaches to office culture)?

Due to the one on one nature of my internship, there were not too many cultural issues. The professor that I worked with was incredibly helpful and supportive.

One of my hobbies is languages, I like to learn all sorts of new words and learn their etymology, so it was very cool to learn some (very very little) Italian during the internship. I feel like breaking (even if ever so slightly) a language barrier makes the entire situation much more welcoming and I was glad to be able to expand my horizons to learn more about different cultures.

What are the benefits of a virtual internship?

The best part of a virtual internship is the convenience of it. I have found it far easier to schedule emergency meetings or to work parallelly (keeping in mind we worked on a computer simulation) in a virtual environment. I think this is a smaller point, but having experience working in a virtual environment will be quite important for my field as going into the future a lot of my work will be online, and I won’t always be able to meet clients in person.

What was the hardest part of your internship? How did you learn to overcome or manage this hurdle?

The hardest part of my internship had to be the building and testing of the program, although it was satisfying when we figured it out, many errors were very difficult to track down due to the size of the program. Additionally, because of the nature of simulating with multiple feedback loops, a small error in one spot may cause the program to completely crash or project error somewhere else.

What was your favorite part of your internship?

My favorite part was working with the professor, you can tell that he has a love for the subject and that he has a love for teaching. If I had to give a specific moment though, discovering that we had been using an incorrect constant and finally solving an error that had been in the program from the start was amazing. I remember it well because we solved it on a zoom call where we had a mini celebration afterwards. I remember saying “cross your fingers” before we tested it. Truly an awesome moment.

What is next for your academic career, and what are your professional plans for after graduation?

While I am still taking classes and working towards my major, I plan to take as many internships, study abroad opportunities, and co-ops as I can. I really want to gather a lot of experience so that I can better know what to expect (and do a better job) when I graduate. After graduation, I am hoping to work with a company (maybe even one that took an internship with) until I understand the field better and then I would like to start a cybersecurity consulting firm. I do have to admit though, while these are goals that I would like to work towards, a lot can change by the time I graduate, so I feel like the best plan is to look out for special opportunities and be ready and able to adapt if necessary. As I have been told before, sometimes the best engineers are the ones that can learn to climb the ladder sideways, branch out to different things.

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Interested in pursuing a virtual international internship? This innovative program allows students to put accessibility and mobility concerns aside to develop meaningful professional connections with international companies, NGOs, health and education organizations, and so on. Although it’s not a substitute for a traditional on-site experience, these programs provide a project-based pathway for students to connect with international organizations. Learn more about options to internationalize your degree plan by adding a virtual international internship to your semester.

02 November 2020

Save the date: Virtual Study Abroad Fair! Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Save the date for the University of Arkansas, Study Abroad Fair!

The Study Abroad Fair features over 50 exhibitors, highlighting 1,000+ programs, including faculty-led, Rome Center, exchange, partner programs, internships, service learning, research opportunities, virtual international programs and more. Program options are available during the summer, semester, or academic year, as well as intersessions.

Don’t speak another language? Not a problem! Check out programs with no language requirements, including opportunities to begin language learning in locations like Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Brazil and Spain. Advanced language opportunities are available as well. The possibilities are endless!

Worried about cost? Did you know that many U of A students transfer their semester and summer financial aid and loans to study abroad and earn additional scholarships just for study abroad? Study abroad can be a reality for students on a budget!

Please join us online on November 18th, from 11:00am to 1:00pm to explore the amazing study abroad options available at the U of A! Start making your dreams a reality!

The 2020 Study Abroad Fair will introduce students to faculty, program providers, the U of A Rome Center, and advisors from your college that are ready to help you internationalize your education (even in a pandemic!). From virtual international internships, to independent experiences immersed in foreign institutions, to programs hosted by U of A faculty, there really is a program for students on every BUDGET, from any MAJOR.

Where:   Virtually!

Date:      Wednesday, November 18th

Time:      11:00am - 1:00pm Drop by virtually, whenever you have a few minutes to explore.

Register: http://bit.ly/studyabroadfair2020

Register today! The one-step registration only takes 30 seconds to complete.

28 October 2020

Critical Language Scholarship Webinar Thursday, October 29

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded intensive language and cultural immersion study abroad program for American students at U.S. colleges and universities. Each summer, students spend eight weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages, 9 of which require no previous language study. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

The application is now live and available online at: https://www.clscholarship.org/apply and an overview of application tips can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WENN81o9WS

With the summer 2021 application closing on Tuesday, November 17 at 8:00pm Eastern, program staff are hosting one final information session for students in Arkansas to learn more about the CLS Program and the application process. This session will be on Thursday, October 29 at 12:00pm CDT and the registration link can be found at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Kwsz0FTOQRWfwqeFHhgQ_A

21 October 2020

That One Time I Got to Play Fútbol with Locals #HogsAbroad in Argentina


Blog post courtesy of AIFS Study Abroad


It is no secret that fútbol (soccer) is extremely important throughout all of Latin America, but I have found this to be especially true here in Argentina.

Argentina has a long history of success with the sport on both international and local levels, and rivalries are strong on both levels as well. Coming to Argentina, I was really excited to embrace this emphasis on soccer, as I played the sport throughout my childhood and high school and was excited to be in a culture that placed it front and center — unlike that of the United States. I was even more excited when one of our program leaders organized a night for us to play fútbol in Argentina with the locals.

We held the game at one of the many indoor stadiums here in Buenos Aires and it was fun to watch some of the more competitive groups play while we waited for the field that we had reserved to be free. Our game was very casual and we split up into three teams so everyone would have a chance to take a break while other teams were playing. Honestly, I was a little nervous that my skills would be embarrassing compared to those of the locals, but they were all so kind and welcoming. Thankfully, my high school soccer days are not too far behind me, so I felt like I fit right in!

While playing a sport that I loved was super fun, my highlight of the night was getting to know the other university students who lived in Buenos Aires. It turns out that a lot of them were from other places throughout Latin America or Europe, so I had the chance to not only learn about Argentine culture, but also that of many other countries. It was so cool to connect with people from all around the world through something like soccer.


After the game, we rented a grill at the stadium and had a traditional style parrilla — similar to a barbeque-style grilled meal. I had eaten parrilla multiple times already during my time here, but this time was different because I was eating it with Argentinians. For them, it was just a typical part of life. During the meal, we were all able to relax and share stories about our various soccer experiences from the past and I learned that some of my new friends played at a semi-professional level!

This night was one of the times throughout the semester that I felt the most a part of Argentine culture. For the other students, a soccer game and parrilla is a normal Saturday night and I was so grateful that they invited me to be a part of it!

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Political science major Megan Rodgers spent the fall 2018 semester studying abroad with AIFS in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"My name is Megan Rodgers and I am a sophomore Political Science, International Studies and Spanish major at the University of Arkansas. I believe that experiential learning is one of the most important parts of a well rounded education and within my field of study, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to fulfill that goal. I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires because it is the perfect place to study a wide variety of political and cultural topics while increasing my Spanish proficiency and enjoying life in one of the biggest South American cities!"

Don't miss your opportunity to study abroad! Start your search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

06 October 2020

Navigating Public Transportation in Buenos Aires #HogsAbroad in Argentina #TravelTuesday


Blog post courtesy of AIFS Study Abroad


As I prepared to study abroad, I was warned about the many difficult transitions that I might face. I knew to expect culture shock, homesickness and difficulties caused by the language barrier so I made efforts to prepare myself mentally to face these challenges. However, for me, one of the most difficult adjustments that I’ve had make living in Buenos Aires had nothing to do with culture or language or distance from loved ones. But rather, that for the first time in my life I am living in a large metropolitan city and therefore have to figure out the craziness of public transportation.

I have never lived in a city with a big enough population to support a substantial bus system, much less a metro. The subte (metro) here in Buenos Aires is fairly easy to navigate, but it was still extremely intimidating to me at first — especially during high traffic times when we manage to fit more people in one subte car than I would have ever imagined possible. However, due to its more simplistic layout, I quickly learned to embrace the chaos and it was a huge confidence-builder when I began to be able to navigate it easily and use it regularly without fear and with confidence that I knew exactly where I was going.

The buses, by comparison, can be extremely confusing, as there are over 200 different routes and you have to know the city well enough to know when you want to get off or the bus will just keep on going. For my first month of living here in Buenos Aires, I let my fear of the bus system prevent me from going to events or places that were not accessible by other means of transportation. But eventually I got tired of letting my fear make me miss out on amazing opportunities and took my first solo bus ride to an event on the other side of the city.

Buenos Aires is a huge city and it is impossible to know every route, so the city has an app called “Cómo Llego” that works similarly to a GPS to tell you what bus to take, where to find it, and where to get off. However, you still have to know when you want to get off and there is no system announcing where you are. Therefore, I learned that I could follow myself on my downloaded Google Maps and know exactly when I need to get off. The bus system is still intimidating for me, but I am slowing learning more and more routes and, after getting over my initial fear, I have found that it is much easier than I originally thought.

The train is the last mode of public transportation that I have yet to completely figure out, but I took my first train ride last week. Now that I understand the system I look forward to the new places I can reach by taking the train!

The city is also filled with taxis, which are always my fall back if I’m not sure how to get some place and don’t have the time to figure out the public transportation — or if I don’t feel safe taking public transportation for some reason. But as taxis are significantly more expensive it has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and fully embrace city life with all of the glories of public transportation.

Despite all of these amazing options for public transportation, I have found that one of my favorite things about living in Buenos Aires is its walkability! Now that spring is coming here (Pro tip: the seasons are the opposite of the United States) and it’s getting warmer, I have found myself skipping on public transportation when I’m going to relatively close locations and just walking instead. This has given me the opportunity to know the city better, window shop and discover lots of new restaurants and parks near my homestay.

After living here for almost 3 months now, I have come to view public transportation in Buenos Aires as a perk rather than a drawback. There are routes all over the city, it has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, embrace the Buenos Aires lifestyle, and get to know this beautiful city even more!

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Political science major Megan Rodgers spent the fall 2018 semester studying abroad with AIFS in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"My name is Megan Rodgers and I am a sophomore Political Science, International Studies and Spanish major at the University of Arkansas. I believe that experiential learning is one of the most important parts of a well rounded education and within my field of study, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to fulfill that goal. I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires because it is the perfect place to study a wide variety of political and cultural topics while increasing my Spanish proficiency and enjoying life in one of the biggest South American cities!"


Don't miss your opportunity to study abroad! Start your search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/