Freeman Fellows gather to encourage international internships

September 29, 2023
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

A panel of eight students who participated in this past summer’s annual Global Citizenship International Internship Program, supported by a generous grant from the Freeman Foundation, recently shared stories and answered questions about their experiences.

The international internship scholarship program supports intercultural understanding between the United States and Asia. St. Mike’s is one of only 30 colleges and universities across the country that receive this annual grant from the Freeman Foundation.

Last summer, 15 students were awarded grants to participate in internships in Seoul, South Korea, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The grant was first offered at Saint Michael’s College in 2018 when four students participated in the pilot program, interning in Hong Kong for eight weeks that summer.

The discussion on September 21 was led by Jeffrey Ayres, Director of the Center for Global Engagement and Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, and Chair of that Department. Ayres said the international internship program has quickly become a flagship program for the College.

The Saint Michael’s students who earned entry into the program were matched with paid internships that took place for 8 weeks in a variety of settings – including nonprofits, universities and businesses – where English was the predominant workplace language for communicating. The Freeman Foundation scholarship, with supplemental financial assistance from the Center for Global Engagement, covered the students’ international airfare, housing, internship placement services, and a $1,000 food stipend.

Panel-participant Braden Dwinell ’24 interned in Seoul, South Korea, at a school that taught English to Korean children. Dwinell said looking back the experience, “feels almost like a fantastic dream. …Every day was a new adventure.”

Dwinell spent his off time exploring the city, trying new foods and having daily conversations on the subway while he traveled to his internship. He said his food stipend went a long way.

Photo by Cat Cutillo

“I would go out to eat every night and spend $8 for this gigantic meal just for me. I felt like a king,” said Dwinell.

Max Noddings ’24 also traveled to Seoul where he worked on creating a WordPress website for a small tech education company. Noddings worked in an area of the city dubbed Techno Valley—the Silicon Valley of South Korea— and traveled one hour and 15 minutes by subway every day to his internship. He said one of the highlights of his trip was the experience of being just a few subway stops from everything while living in such a large metropolitan area.

In contrast, Mia Cooper ’24, loved the experience in Vietnam of traveling mostly by foot. Every day Cooper walked to the internship because there was not reliable public transportation available.

“I got to observe the world around me. Ho Chi Minh City is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been and I ever will go,” said Cooper.

Cooper interned at a university’s psychology branch where she taught a class on how to write AP papers. Cooper also co-facilitated an LGBTQ+ support group.

One student in the audience asked if coordinating the LGBTQ+ group was part of the internship and Cooper explained that it was not, but Cooper was able to take initiative to help create it with the guidance of Cooper’s boss.

Nika Mitchell ’25 also went to Vietnam and said, “I wanted to speak of my experience being a queer person in Vietnam. I was really scared to go but the people who are our age are so accepting just like here. I met so many amazing people and I understood how the LGBTQ+ community thrives in Vietnam.”

Greg Hurter ’24 interned at a research center for infectious diseases in Vietnam and said it was one of the richest learning experiences he’s had in his life. Getting to eat the food was one of Hurter’s highlights.

“I was probably one of the most adventurous eaters on the trip,” Hurter said. “The average cost of dinner in Vietnam was, at most, $5. You could even get dinner for just $1 or $2.”

Audience members also asked about housing accommodations. Students who interned in Seoul said the housing consisted of brand-new apartments and that last summer’s St. Mike’s students were all placed in the same building, each with their own single room, which included a kitchen and a washing machine. Students who interned at Vietnam last summer could decide whether to be placed with the collective Saint Michael’s group or to prioritize their housing to be near their internship. Most of the students chose to stay together and traveled anywhere from 15 minutes to a one-hour bus ride to their internships.

Photo by Cat Cutillo

At the end of the meeting, Tallis Diehn ’24, who interned in Vietnam over the summer, dropped by, after working as a tutor, to share some final words.

“If you’re uncertain, you should just do it,” Diehn said. ”I was very on the fence, and I did it and it was amazing. It wasn’t all perfect sunshine, but it was an incredibly rewarding and transformative experience.”

Applications for summer 2024 Freeman Foundation grants are due on Nov. 3. Students can submit applications online by answering four questions, submitting a resume and naming two faculty references.

Zoom interviews with the selection committee—which consists of Ayres, Director of Study Abroad Peggy Imai, and Associate Professor of Business Administration Alaba Apesin—will follow after applications are reviewed. If a student is offered the scholarship, they must accept by early January so they can begin working with teams in South Korea or Vietnam to find internship placements that suit their interests.

Saint Michael’s continues to hold monthly meetings on campus to make sure students feel supported on both ends. Click here for more information on how to apply.

See a slideshow from last summer

“I would go out to eat every night and spend $8 for this gigantic meal just for me. I felt like a king.”

Braden Dwinell ’24

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