Virtual Internship in Spain

Hello. My name is Cristina. If there’s anything you must know about me its that I am invested in widening my global perspective. Really! Its not something I just put on a cover letter. I truly strive to be a global citizen.

I am the daughter of an Australian immigrant father and a 1st generation Mexican-American mother. My parents raised me to see beyond domestic issues and observe the greater world.

Spring semester of my sophomore year (the doomed 2020) I got accepted into 3 study abroad programs. CBA’s Exploring Asian Culture course, where I would travel to South Korea and China in May 2020, Study Abroad in Bonn, Germany in June to attend UN International Climate Change Negotiations Semester in Madrid through Saint Louis University – Fall, 2020.

Due to the emerging global pandemic, one by one my programs got cancelled. With each cancellation, I grew more worried that not only would I miss out on studying abroad, but I also wouldn’t be able to fulfil the international experience requirement for my degree.

Thankfully, LMU CPD and Study Abroad teamed up to offer Virtual Study Abroad opportunities, equipped with a virtual international internship. I applied in a heartbeat and was accepted. 

As you can imagine, lots of email correspondence ensued. We were reminded to keep checking our email diligently. The nature of virtual internships is very different from an on-the-ground experience, especially with time zone differences across the ocean—adding an additional layer of complexity in communicating in a timely manner.

In June I was connected with LMU’s partner, (IAU) Institute for American Universities for placement in Spain. The internship liaison paired me with an in-country mentor, Noemi Morell. Noemi facilitated the contact and communication between me and the company I would be doing my internship with. 

I was matched with a site placement at Pla Estrategic Metropolita de Barcelona, or PEMB for short. PEMB is a non-profit organization whose aim is to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region (around 5 million people, the fourth largest of the European Union). Their members include some of the largest economic and social organizations of the city: universities, Chamber of Commerce, trade unions, and the Port Authority, among others.

The company supervisor, David Rodriguez, proposed an internship project based on the analysis of how COVID-19 has affected several industries and their impact on metropolitan economies.

I worked with 3 other students to research the future of retail and the challenge of e-commerce. We conducted research on three different metropolitan areas with similar population sizes and compared their infrastructure and response to COVID-19 to Barcelona’s. I studied New York, and my other group members studied Los Angeles and Rome. We consolidated our research into a presentation to our supervisor at the end of our internship. 

We dove into an assignment that was very new to us – and to anyone, because not very many people have researched the effects of a global pandemic on retail activity before. It was invigorating and strange at the same time. I was busy exploring a new industry, diving into a different culture, and expanding my professional network. I was also developing skills through the various academic course components. 

The first day of my internship, I experienced conflicting emotions. After the first zoom call with my supervisors, I doubted my ability to perform in this new environment. This doubt was exacerbated when I heard my peers introduce themselves and their impressive credentials. I was especially nervous to perform well considering the work I was about to embark upon involved the future of the Metropolitan e-commerce infrastructure in Barcelona and its retail landscape in the wake of Covid-19. In hindsight, these doubts were realized as nervousness from partaking such an influential task in a bleak pandemic.

Despite my doubts, navigating through my internship and the IAU classes made me realize that I had a lot to contribute. With my cultural background, a sensitivity to different languages, and an eagerness to learn, I envisioned myself in Barcelona despite never having been there.

I felt enthusiastic to engage with a group discussing topics that were current, relevant, and forward-looking. Analyzing and discussing effects of e-commerce in metropolitan areas gave me the opportunity to see a variety of avenues that would improve businesses’ futures. The time I spent workshopping with my peers allowed me to clarify areas of progress for businesses. 

I added to my understanding of international businesses and entities through this internship process. The analysis of my research gave me a clear understanding of the challenges in the ‘new normal’. The completion and presentation of my work enabled me to believe that I could contribute to an established company’s success through intuitive ideas and approaches. It gave me the confidence to feel that I could make a constructive contribution. The professional exchanges I had with my colleagues, supervisors, and mentors added to my knowledge of business culture and respect of superiors that will bleed into my interactions with future employers.

I greatly appreciate the strengths that come from embracing and incorporating diversity into a group setting. Having a diverse lens to view the situation allowed us to expand our horizons and enabled us to analyze challenges from a new perspective. This gave us a better view of the challenges of the future for brick and mortar retail in the face of e-commerce. Having a more creative take on problem solving and solution building allows for a more perspective future in these uncertain times. I am excited to emerge into the working world with the knowledge and experience I have gained from my internship with Pla Estratègic Metropolità de Barcelona and enrollment in Institute for American Universities.

Author: Christina P.