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OU in Arezzo Students Prepare for Global Careers with Italian Internships

OU in Arezzo, the University of Oklahoma's International Study Center in Arezzo, Italy, provides the best of both worlds to students: a friendly home base where they can live with other OU students and take courses with OU faculty, and a chance to immerse themselves in Italian culture in the heart of beautiful Tuscany. Because OUA's presence in Arezzo dates back more than a decade, the program has forged close connections with leaders and organizations in the community, providing unique opportunities for students looking to gain career experience abroad.

Studies have shown that studying abroad, particularly while learning a second language, results in improved career prospects and greater advancement for college graduates. International internships like those offered at OUA can take students one step further, allowing them to build job skills while also learning how to navigate another culture. For a closer look at how interning abroad works, we interviewed two students who completed fall 2019 internships in Arezzo about their experiences.

OUA student Leticia Muiunane

Leticia Muiunane

Year: Sophomore

Major/Minor: Microbiology (Biotechnology) with a minor in Management Information Systems (MIS)

Internship: Oxfam Italia (a division of Oxfam International)

What was your path to obtaining your internship with Oxfam in Arezzo?

Studying in Arezzo for the fall semester, I applied for the internship through the OUA internship application. I heard about the opportunity through our study abroad advisor and through the OUA staff. Oxfam is a global NGO which has in its mission to eradicate poverty by 2030. They also work in fields such as sustainable development, women's rights, humanitarian emergencies and awareness campaigns, just to name a few. I always wanted to learn how NGOs work to achieve their missions and goals. [Oxfam] is a renowned global NGO and there is one in my home country, Mozambique. Mozambique is the second poorest country in the world, so I wanted to be involved with an organization that works towards eradicating poverty.

What are your day-to-day duties and responsibilities?

I assist in preparing for conferences and producing articles with summaries of the conferences. [Basically I] interpret graphical and numerical data into words, so that anyone that reads the report on the conference or event can understand it. I also assisted my advisor at a school in Italy once, when she went to teach a few middle-school students about climate change and the implications that this has.

What is your favorite thing about your internship?

My favorite thing is being in a work environment with people from another country and just learning about the work ethics per se.

What do you feel you have gained from this experience?

Interning abroad has opened my eyes to what it means to be in the real world as an employee, even if just as an intern. Moreover, I have learned that we can all make a difference even if just with a small act.

OUA student Michael Cheek

Michael Cheek

Year: Sophomore

Major/Minor: Electrical Engineering with minors in Computer Science, German and Spanish

Internship: SECO (technology company)

What was your path to obtaining your internship with SECO in Arezzo?

The path to my internship with SECO is actually an interesting story. I applied for three other engineering internships by submitting my application to the Norman study abroad office, which was to be forwarded to Lucio [Bianchi, OUA Student Services Coordinator], who would sort us into our internships. That application was never forwarded to Lucio, and I didn’t find out about it until everyone else had gotten internships. I sent Lucio my application directly, and because none of the internships I had applied for were available, he worked with SECO to start a partnership with them in order for me to intern there. He hopes that many more OU students will get to work at SECO in the future.

What are your day-to-day duties and responsibilities?

SECO is an engineering firm headquartered in Arezzo that specializes in automation and the internet of things. I usually got up at 6:00 and took the bus to get to the office. I would clock in by 7:30 and would stay there until early afternoon. I had my own desk next to some full-time employees and would use my own computer for my work, which usually consisted of editing and writing code for a single-board computer. One day, I was invited to get an espresso with some of the employees, which was nice. They wanted to know about the American south, especially the accents.

What is your favorite thing about your internship?

My favorite part was succeeding in my project. I was tasked with taking firmware that worked on an older model, single board computer and rewriting it to work on a newer model with a completely different processor and code library. Not only did I succeed in rewriting the code and getting it to run on the new computer, but I was also able to improve it. Knowing that I was ultimately able to make a contribution to their project when I wasn’t so sure of myself in the beginning of the internship was a wonderful feeling.

What do you feel you have gained from this experience?

I walked into my internship lacking any sort of confidence. I didn’t know anyone there, I felt intimidated by my supervisor, and I didn’t think I knew enough about computer science to even know where to start on my project. Over the course of my time there, I worked with an employee who made sure I understood what I was doing. While some of what he taught me was completely new, a lot made sense given what I had already learned at OU. I learned how to ask for help, but also how to have more confidence in what I already know. Those two ultimately helped me learn how to be more confident overall in the workplace. By the time the internship was over, I felt confident and comfortable at my desk.

Considering a semester or a year abroad with OU in Arezzo? The deadline to apply for fall 2020 is February 28. Visit the OUA semester and year-long programs web page for more details. And for information on internship opportunities, check out the OUA internship directory.

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