Hello! My name is Judy Ortega and for the past few weeks, I have been virtually interning for a company based in San José, Costa Rica. I did not intend for my summer to play out like this but I’m sure along with everyone else’s agreement, the COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much shattered all of our plans. Am I right?
So, from the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, I have endlessly planned with Jennifer Crystle from the CGE, on this huge intern abroad opportunity. I’ll also add in that I am currently studying Health Sciences with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy as well as minoring in Spanish. Traditionally, any individual aspiring to work in the medical field would need some sort of hands-on experience prior to actually working in their career, but through perseverance and continuous communication with the superiors of my department, I was able to gain approval for this unique experience during this unprecedented time. The process to even apply for an internship abroad program is not that simple; First off, you have to assure that your passport information is all set, you have to complete various paperwork for both your home institution and the study/intern abroad company, edit your résumé and cover letter to perfection, have numerous conference calls/Zoom conference meetings with the Internship Placement coordinators of the study/intern abroad company as well as the Program Directors of the company, all while balancing your own academic, (and possibly) extracurricular, and personal life. Now, this may all sound just a bit overwhelming, but I do want to emphasize that all the hours you put into making this opportunity happen, is ALL worth it.
If we remember back just a few months ago to the middle of March, that’s when all the chaos and craziness started. We all had to shift to an online format the rest of the semester, most, if not all of us had to move back home, and there were plainly a lot of adjustments we had to make! To skip over some of the nitty-gritty, I was extremely fortunate to gain approval for a virtual global internship experience from the superiors of my department. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as my study/intern abroad company, CEA, emailed all students notifying us of the Summer 2020 program cancellations, my heart DROPPED. Might I add, we were notified of this in the midst of this unexpected virtual semester. Applying for this program and eagerly waiting to intern abroad is all exciting until I read that one email. Anyway, back to my point, to this day, I am very fortunate to have gained approval for this experience and although this summer is not what I was hoping for at all, I am happy and blessed for the way everything worked out.
A few weeks prior to starting this virtual internship experience, I was also taking a TRS 202 course. Again, I am so fortunate to have had one of the BEST professors for this course and truthfully, although the ending of this course overlapped into the start of my virtual internship program, I was so fortunate that my professor was so understanding and adjustable to my workload. So, to clarify, I was taking a TRS 202 course from May 18th to June 20th; Then the program dates for my internship and internship course started from June 8th, and ends on July 17th, 2020. You may not think that this little overlap is significant, but let me tell you – balancing all of this workload…successfully is NOT easy. All of us students always aim to excel in our courses, right? Well, this TRS course was already condensed, so a traditional 16-week course condensed into a 5-week course, and interning for a required minimum of 120 hours within a 6-week program again, is NOT easy. I had to stay on top of my TRS assignments, and prepare for a virtual religious final exam all while trying to intern for 20 hours a week (and of course, maintain my life outside the laptop). I don’t want to stretch out the details to a great extent and bore you out, but let’s just say that balancing about three courses over the summer is again, NOT easy, BUT definitely doable! So, in the end, through perseverance, prioritization, and organization, I was able to successfully complete this TRS course with a 100%! Now let’s move on to this unusual virtual global internship experience…
As I previously mentioned, anyone aspiring to work in the medical field would normally need some sort of hands-on experience and not so much a virtual one, but this is the world we’re living in now! Where technology is rapidly growing, we all have to adapt to a more tech-savvy dynamic, and where we all simply need to “go with the flow” as best as we can. (Thank you again to all of my superiors in the Malek School of Health Professions and Jen Crystle who granted me to have this opportunity!) The first day of the program, June 8th, all of us virtual interns who would’ve interned abroad had our orientation via Zoom. During this orientation, we met with the Director of the Internship Program of the CEA company, the Director of the Internship Course which corresponds with our actual internship experience, the NACE certified Internship Coaches, and the Program Directors who live in various countries throughout the globe. We first reviewed administrative materials such as the dynamic of the entire program, how to be the most successful virtual intern, how to succeed in the internship course, navigated through the different program applications we would use throughout these six weeks and then broke off into “Breakout Rooms.” In these breakout rooms, we met with other fellow students interning in the same region, as well as our Program Directors. Here, we learned the typical practices and customs within the workplace of our host countries. Although there aren’t any huge differences between the Costa Rican workplace and the American workplace, the information which the Program Directors presented was still very interesting and useful to know!
The next day, I met with my Onsite Internship Supervisor and my Program Director. To clarify, they both currently live in Costa Rica, so they met up together and then we all had a chance to virtually meet each other and I was able to learn about the company and the goals and objectives of the company. Right off the bat, as soon as we were able to connect through Zoom, both my Supervisor and Program Director were so friendly, energetic, and so welcoming! I genuinely wished I was there to meet them in-person (and still do wish to this day…). Like I said, we were able to introduce ourselves, I was able to learn more about the company (as my Onsite Internship Supervisor is the founder of Ormoni System), I learned what my tasks were for the following weeks, and toward the end of the meeting, I was able to practice my Spanish communication skills! This may not sound THAT exciting, but as someone who has been learning and practicing the Spanish language for a little over eight years, I was excited to communicate with native Spanish speakers abroad. Through this meeting, I learned that the goal behind Ormoni System is to educate and empower women to embrace their menstrual cycles. Often times, women are stereotyped to feel a certain way during their time of the month and because we normally don’t know how to cope with our fluctuating hormones and the other physiological components that accompany this cycle, we tend to disregard this entire natural process. With Ormoni System, the founder and its employees, all provide nutritional advice and specialized training programs which women can safely execute.
You may also wonder why I titled this blog “Trust the Process” – well, in Spanish, I explained to my superiors that I was extremely scared, nervous, and overwhelmed to begin this internship process (all while simultaneously completing the TRS course). You may or may not know this (either way is completely fine!) but the Costa Ricans have a saying of living a “Pura Vida” lifestyle which translates to “Pure Life”. When I expressed my concerns, immediately, my Site Supervisor stated to “trust the process” and remain calm. Both she and my Program Director emphasized that this process is not meant to overwhelm or scare me, but to simply expand my knowledge and practice my versatility in many ways I hadn’t before. Right after this reassurance, I knew that again, I was (and still am) so blessed and fortunate to have such compassionate and understanding superiors.
This upcoming Monday will mark our fourth week into the program. As per my assigned tasks, I have been researching and familiarizing myself with the entire menstrual cycle (and the physiological components which accompany it) and researching the possible injuries that women may obtain during the different phases for these past three weeks. With this information, I will then create an interactive calendar which women can follow and then, in the weeks to come, I will have the opportunity to post this calendar, AND various exercises which their clients can perform, on Ormoni System’s Instagram page! With my passion of the Spanish language and desire to work in the health/fitness and well-being industry, I can now combine these two elements and create an ultimate project!
I’m aware I keep emphasizing the fact that I am fortunate to have this opportunity, but I also want to acknowledge the CEA study/intern abroad company and their staff. Each week, other virtual interns and I meet with our NACE certified Internship Coaches to discuss our progress, any conflicts we might’ve encountered both inside the internship program and outside, how to go about conflict-resolutions in the various cultural workplaces (with more focus on a virtual dynamic), and how to continue thriving in this experience. I’ve also had the awesome opportunity to virtually meet and connect with fellow interns who are somewhat going through the same experiences I am – I say somewhat because we all virtually intern for different countries and companies around the globe, but we’ve all had the opportunity to chat with one another through these past few weeks! Along with our weekly coaching meetings, CEA also implemented bi-weekly cultural discussions into the program. Remember the “break rooms” I mentioned during our orientation? Well, every other week, we also have the chance to learn more about the specific countries which we intern for. In these discussions, we meet with our Program Directors who live in these specific countries and we discuss cultural work practices which our Onsite Supervisors might do, how to adapt to these cultural differences, and just this past week actually, we discussed the health care systems of Costa Rica and Argentina, the education systems of these two countries, the common foods, and some pop culture between these two nations. I am genuinely learning a lot from these weekly coaching meetings and bi-weekly cultural discussions! Did you know that Costa Rica has a free universal health care system? That’s because the country does not have an army to fund so rather, they prioritize their funding on the health and education systems!
Believe it or not, no matter how much my eyes may hurt from looking at the screen of my laptop, I will genuinely miss this unique experience once it’s over. Admittingly, I have learned a lot of vital information which I can not only share with others, but also utilize in my own personal life, and in my future career. Although 90% of my work is done on my laptop, this opportunity as a whole has truly opened a lot of doors for me. Now, whenever I visit Costa Rica, I know two individuals who I can visit and possibly workout with! This goes without saying, I’ve also globally networked with an actual company in Costa Rica which surely expands my professional portfolio! Plus, more recently, one of my professors for the internship course offered me and a select number of students to answer interview questions regarding this unique experience, because he and our other professor noticed how much thought and dedication we put into our writing assignments for the course. We won’t just answer these interview questions, but our responses will even be published on LinkedIn! And, as a Global Ambassador for MU, I have the opportunity to share my experiences with you! Now, I do not intend to sound conceded, but I simply want to share with you that although things may not go our way, through adaptation, perseverance, and dedication, YOU can make more opportunities for yourself and have more doors open your way. If you made it this far in my first blog, first of all, THANK YOU; A lot has happened in the past few weeks which might explain the length of this composition, but thank you again and I hope to see you in the following weeks.