by Matt Heller
Protests in Hong Kong have meant changes for St. Michael’s students who hope to get an internship through the Freeman Foundation this summer. Over the past two summers, St. Michael’s has sent students to Hong Kong, but due to ongoing protests over an extradition bill that would allow authorities to send citizens to mainland China, the committee that oversees the internships decided to send students to Singapore next year.
“I think Singapore is still going to be an outstanding opportunity for students to get real-world workplace skills for eight weeks in a major international city,” said professor Jeff Ayers, a coordinator for the internship program.
While Tokyo was a top option to replace Hong Kong, Singapore was chosen due to the 2020 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo.
While no one knows if the protests would turn violent during the time the students stay in their internships, the committee didn’t want to take chances. “It’s not about what I think or what we think. It’s what parents think,” said professor Robert Letovsky, who also coordinates the program. “We can’t control perception.”
Sophie DeFries, a senior biochemistry major, spent her time doing pharmacological research at the University of Hong Kong. While the protests didn’t affect her daily life, it did play an impact on some decisions.
“For example, on the weekend we had to be diligent about what we were doing and where we were going or else it was easy to get stuck in sticky situations. One time we accidentally found ourselves at the same MTR station that had a protest surrounding it,” said DeFries.
This past summer, 11 students from a variety of majors spent time interning for businesses, nonprofits, and universities.
The experience went beyond his career interests, Diego Calderon, a senior business major who interned at a tech startup, said. “There are many social cues and norms that students need to experience in order to be open and adaptable to a more globalized world.”
Letovsky said he is hoping 10 or 11 students will be sent to Singapore from May 31 to August 1, 2020.
The application, which is due on October 25, is open to all current sophomore and juniors who will have spring 2020 residency on-campus.
Students receive 4 credits, and St. Michael’s waves the fee for a summer course. Most of the $7,000 scholarship allotted to each student goes to the Academic Internship Council, which helps place students into their internships and houses them. Most airfare charges can be covered within this budget as well.
Contact Professor Robert Letovsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Study Abroad, Peggy Imai, email@example.com
Thailand trip canceled due to air quality concerns
Political tensions in Hong Kong caused the Global Citizen Internship Program to switch its location to Singapore, but it is not the only study abroad program at St. Michael’s that is dealing with locational issues.
The Education Abroad Network canceled the Thailand 2020 semester trips to Chaing-Mai over air quality concerns. While this wasn’t St. Michael’s decision, Director of Study Abroad Peggy Imai said problems like this sometimes occur, but instances such as Hong Kong and Chaing-Mai are quite rare. While the school still could have sent students to Hong Kong, the Academic Internship Council recommended against it.
“Our level of risk aversion is higher than some other institutions,” Imai said.
While student safety is the school’s top priority, other factors such as whether insurance will cover a program, also plays an important role in decisions.