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Global Studies Internship Program takes students to 29 countries around the world

Students in Shanghai

Students participating in the Stanford Global Studies Internship Program in Beijing visited Shanghai, China.

Oct 22 2019

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Internships, Students

The Stanford Global Studies Internship Program offered 116 Stanford students an opportunity to extend classroom learning to immersive cultural and professional experiences in 29 countries across six continents this summer. Many of these internships are part of Stanford's Cardinal Quarter program. Below, eight students reflect on their summer internships abroad.

Aitran Doan, International Relations ’20

EcoPeace Middle East, Jordan

Photo of Jordan

I work with EcoPeace Middle East in the Amman office. The organization promotes collaboration between Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis to rehabilitate the Jordan River and nurture a Jordan Valley that is environmentally, economically, and culturally prosperous and peaceful. EcoPeace’s supporters champion the idea of regional collaboration in an area where borders are highly contested and enforced. EcoPeace’s critics question the idea of regional collaboration in an area where borders guide geopolitical power dynamics.

In the few weeks since I have started my internship, I have witnessed and personally experienced both perspectives. The day-to-day of regional collaboration is more grueling than beautiful. It would be a lie to say that I do not feel daunted after long days. But what keeps all of us going, trudging through the messiness and challenges of regional cooperation, is the conviction that our natural resources do not recognize manmade borders. The polluted Jordan River sustains communities in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, and all three sides must recognize that without fair collective stewardship of the Jordan River Basin, societies will not be able to live in health and in peace.

Read more about Aitran’s experience at EcoPeace on the Global Perspectives blog.

Christopher Cross, Computer Science ’22

PlusAI, China

Christopher Cross at conference presenting work.

My time so far at PlusAI has been amazing! Working as a software engineering intern, I’ve felt as if I’m learning so much about the intricacies behind the self-driving car industry. At the Beijing office of PlusAI, I’m currently involved in the perception team, meaning that I’m working closely with both engineers and scientists to implement software governing detection and tracking. My first impression of the company was that it was very fast paced, as I was immediately introduced to the projects that I would be working on. I was happy to learn that my role was very research heavy—I spent a lot of time the first few days reading and annotating academic papers detailing complex deep learning models pertaining to computer vision. It’s been amazing getting real-world experience programming software using real data taken by sensors from the engineering team, as well as theoretical experience discussing ML models with experienced researchers.

One of the most surprising experiences that I had was our first company outing. During my first week in the internship, the company bought us train tickets to visit our sister branch in Suzhou. I expected the event to be one of the stereotypical team-building events that you often see in Western companies. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had! After meeting the Suzhou employees and interns at the company headquarters, we embarked on a trek that included visits to incredible parks and underground caverns as part of the outing. We had a banquet during one of the nights that was filled with different festivities like live music, dancing, and karaoke. There was a wide assortment of Chinese delicacies, such as chicken feet and braised eels. I had a great time socializing with my coworkers, many of whom I had only shared a few words with previously. It was incredible how close it seemed like I was getting to the other employees and interns after only a few days of meeting!

Over the past three weeks, my experience here so far has been incredible. I often hear from pessimistic upperclassmen about the “bubble” environment that is inherent to Stanford—how our university shelters us from the real world. However, with the experiences I’ve had in the past three weeks, I can confidently say that this is not true. I am glad that Stanford has given me the opportunity to witness what my skills as a computer scientist can bring outside the context of the tech world of Silicon Valley. Despite initial cultural differences and language boundaries, I truly feel as if I’m getting immersed into a culture that is completely different from our own. Despite having traveled a lot during my childhood, working in a different culture has been a completely unique experience that has opened my eyes as a college student. Overall, I’m extremely happy to be working here and look forward to what Beijing will show me in the next few weeks!

Faith Harron, Mechanical Engineering ’21

Skoltech University, Russia

Faith with friends in Russia.

Above the simple iron gates, the painted towers rise: yellow and orange, green and blue. An icy wind chills my fingers, but the cold and consistently damp rain of this Saturday morning hasn’t discouraged me—or any of my fellow students—from venturing outside. We’re at the Ismailovskii Kremlin in Moscow, the home of a famous market (here, kremlin refers to a walled city or fortress, and is a fairly common architectural layout in Russian historic cities). This kremlin’s courtyard has two decorative cannons, covered in spiraling pastel flowers and tourists with selfie-sticks. After perusing the market and watching my friends haggle over the price of a traditional Russian fur hat, we head back to the main courtyard, where a group of traditionally attired Russian folksingers has been replaced by a four-foot stage surrounded by a group of people, tourists and locals alike. On the stage stand two men—two men who will fight for the honor of winning a prize. The announcer speaks solely in Russian; I understand enough to get the gist, but I’m not sure of the word they use to refer to the prize. However, there is a horse standing just to the right of the stage, so I turn to my fellow group of students and translate the unknown word as “stallion.” After the announcements and general cheering of the crowd, both men strap cloth belts around their waists and then begin to grapple. Three bouts later, one is declared the winner, and the prize is handed to him: a live black-furred goat, legs tied together. He swings it across his shoulders easily and parades around the square to the amusement of the crowd. The horse, which I thought was the prize, simply watches the match. I apologize for my mistake in translation and laugh with my new friends as I snap a photo I call “Man with Goat.” My Russian language skills have been improving through many such experiences; however, not all incidences have been quite as dramatic as a fight for the grand prize of glory and a goat.

Man with goat

Each week I am here contains twelve hours of Russian language instruction, and homework. I have already memorized two poems, and I’m sure I will learn several more before the end of my program. Along with language classes, this program—held at Skoltech University—also includes the unique opportunity for me to conduct a STEM internship through the institute’s Energy Lab. This is a perfect opportunity for me to mesh my two seemingly disparate majors, and so far, my experiences have exceeded my expectations.

I’ve learned about how the Russian electricity grid works and discussed demand-response systems for efficiency with my supervisor; met with Russian peers my age and practiced my language skills with them; as well as been getting to know my fellow students in the program, most of whom are from international countries other than the U.S. I’m looking forward to more chances to practice language, more moments of culture and more places I get to explore with people I enjoy spending time with—as well as making memories I’ll one day incorporate into job interviews and storytelling with friends back in the U.S.

Harry Cole, Art Practice ‘20

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia

Harry Cole

This summer, I worked as a design intern at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a prominent public art museum in Sydney, Australia. During the internship, I focused on creating a map redesign for the art museum. This project involved research into how other major museums and cultural institutions design maps, surveying the public with prototypes, and many critiques and presentations with other professionals at the gallery.

Throughout the summer, I had the privilege to meet and engage with artists, curators, and so many other thoughtful people in Australia's arts community. The designers at the office gave me so much wisdom and guidance, and they helped me truly feel at home as an artist and designer in the city. These kinds of experiences shape one's life. I hope to channel what I have learned into a future career in design. I know I'll look back on the summer as an important and foundational time in my life.

Julian Samuels, Sociology ‘21

Asian Charity Services, Hong Kong

Julian Samuels

The first few weeks of my internship in Hong Kong have really been off to a great start! From the first day I stepped inside the office of Asian Charity Services (ACS), I received a warm welcome and a smooth onboarding process. The entire team is friendly, professional, and extremely passionate about the work they do. ACS, a capacity-building organization for Hong Kong’s nonprofit sector, works to “connect NGOs, skill-based volunteers, and partnering organizations so that their collective talents and resources can help NGOs succeed, thereby creating a more empathetic society.”

This summer, alongside another Stanford intern, Alicia Hu ’20, have been working on projects concerning a strategic review of ACS’ existing programs, and those of similar organizations in the sector—with the end goal of proposing new ideas or suggestions for the management team to consider moving forward. In the day-to-day, this entails researching various organizations across Hong Kong’s social sector, analyzing data and entering it into spreadsheets, and meeting with various members of the ACS team to get additional insights on our work. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit in on a number of meetings with NGO and corporate partners to see ACS’ work in action.

Even just a few weeks in, my internship is beginning to have a tangible and lasting influence on me. I definitely feel that I am developing my professional skills and confidence that will be useful for both my future career, and my remaining time at Stanford. I also appreciate that ACS places emphasis on employing design thinking, which will definitely be a useful framework to understand moving forward. Additionally, I have begun to really think more about a future career in the social sector, and how I might align it with my current interests. I owe all of this to ACS’ willingness to thoughtfully craft a dynamic internship experience that not only gives us a deep look into ACS’ programs, but also provides a broader window into Hong Kong’s nonprofit sector.

Kiara Harding, International Relations ‘21

Venture Republic, Japan

Kiara Harding

So far, this internship has been everything I dreamed it to be and more. Everyone at Venture Republic is so nice. I’ve learned more than I thought I could ever know about the travel industry, how companies in Japan operate, and how international Japan really is. Last week I attended a conference called Web in Travel, and major players from across both the tech and travel industries talked about what was going on in the online travel field and where the industry was headed. Afterward, I had the chance to meet with CEOs and entrepreneurs and talk to them about their businesses and their careers. It was an amazing experience, and I’m truly amazed at how much I was able to learn in just two days.

Every day at work is educational. By being surrounded by Japanese daily, I’m learning what phrases are used in the workplace, and my vocabulary is growing. I’ve also been able to make friends with the other interns and go to a movie night with employees at the company. Living in Japan is wonderful as well. I take the train to work every day, and even though it’s crowded, being able to utilize Tokyo’s public transportation is so freeing.  

There is also just so much to do in Tokyo. I can get off at any stop on my train line, and there are so many different shops and restaurants and even little hidden shrines. The best part of shopping is the secondhand shops though. It’s so easy to find discounted high-quality things. I enjoy shopping, but it’s almost overwhelming just how much there is to buy here. There’s a street near my apartment called Kappabashi, and they had a festival for Tanabata. The street was decorated, and there were performances and a parade. Additionally, the shops and stalls sold cheap festival food. They had someone dressed up as a kappa, which is a mythical turtle-like creature that walks and dances around. It was amazing to watch.

Honestly, I’m enjoying my time here so much that I don’t know how I’ll ever leave. Every time I go to a new place, I’m just wide-eyed with wonder, and I begin to notice every little thing about Tokyo that makes it special. When I turn down a side street and find an eight-seat ramen shop with delicious ramen at a ridiculously cheap price, or round a corner and find some interesting new place like an owl café or a cake shop, it makes me so grateful that I am able to spend my summer here. So far this has been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see more.

Pieter-Jan Stas, Engineering Physics ‘20

Skoltech University, Russia

Pieter-Jan in Russia.

My first two weeks at Skolkovo have been a big success. The first few days were a little bit of an adjustment, mostly due to the general lack of use of English in day-to-day life and my poor Russian skills. This was exacerbated with a broken Wi-Fi and a clogged toilet (the conversation with the only Russian-speaking plumber was an experience). But, fairly quickly, I got used to the new lifestyle. I'm discovering my new local food favorites: ряженка (ryazhenka, fermented baked milk), хачапури (khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread), and пельмени (pelmeni, Russian dumplings), among others. I'm getting used to the local transport: the famous Moscow metro, and Яндекс такси, the local, cheaper, and safer version of Uber. There are a few other students participating in the Global Campus program in Skolokovo, who come from Spain, the UK, and the U.S. Together it makes it easier—and more fun—to explore the sights and nightlife of Moscow. The local Muscovites we have met have all been very friendly, inviting us to social gatherings and art exhibitions, and giving us some opportunities to practice Russian outside of the classroom.

We also organize day trips together on weekends, and went to Sergiyev Posad, a small town outside Moscow, last Sunday. There we visited the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius, a beautiful Christian orthodox monastery of churches and chapels.

Research has also been very interesting. Under Professor Ouerdane in the Energy Systems department, I have started working on a project to analyze Flywheel Energy Storage Systems (FESS). I have also been working with one of his students on the intersection of machine learning and quantum simulations.

TJ Francisco, Earth Systems ‘21

Instituto Socioambiental, Brazil

TJ Francisco's photo of boat in the Amazon.

I assisted ISA, Instituto Socioambiental, in the Terra do Meio region of the Amazon Rainforest. The ISA office in Altamira engages in varied, dynamic initiatives attempting to support Brazil’s traditional peoples and their ecosystems. We have lawyers, economists, anthropologists, and sociologists on the team, but my particular expertise is in ecology so I’m looking into the ways they affect ecosystems through biodiversity promotion and agricultural activities. My principal project this summer was to join my supervisor, Roberto, in mapping the socioenvironmental protection services traditional Ribeirinho (riverside communities) provide.

We traveled three days and nights by boat, deep into the Riozinho and Iriri Extractive Reserves. Along the way, we saw caimans, macaws, freshwater stingrays, and even a coral snake swimming in the river. The crew was 10 strong: Roberto, eight Ribeirinho men working with ISA, and myself. Because August is the peak of the dry season, we all had to jump out and pull the boat through the shallow rapids multiple times throughout our journey upriver. One by one, we would lose our footing and get swept briefly downriver. Then, we would clamber up the banks, into the forest and walk a distance back upriver, just to grab the rope and do it again.

Our main goal was to analyze the use and regeneration of capoeira plots and how they can promote biodiversity and beneficial heterogeneity in the forest. Capoeira is land now left fallow to regrow after use in sustainable slash and burn agriculture, practiced by the local Ribeirinho communities. Roberto and I were working alongside Ribeirinho researchers, providing training on how to account for the plant biodiversity in each capoeira. Our time in the field was split between traveling up and down rivers by boat, in classrooms in the riverine communities, and exploring the capoeira and other forest trails.

The monitoring research will last at least two years and span five different initiatives in Terra do Meio: work and income, fauna monitoring along Ribeirinho trails, mapping areas of use, production of Brazil Nut, and regeneration and biodiversity of capoeiras. I merely helped set the initial stages of the project, and the community researchers will take it from here.

Visit theGlobal Studies Internship Program websitefor more information about internship positions, deadlines, and ways to get involved.