Summer in Asia

Students gain valuable experience through varied internships

Izzy Quam/News and Features Editor/

This summer, 15 St. Michael’s College students traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Seoul, South Korea for international internships. Eleven students went to Ho Chi Minh City, while four students went to South Korea. 

   According to Jeffery Ayres, director of the Center for Global Engagement, the internships were funded by the Freeman Foundation. Their programs promote an intercultural understanding between the United States and Asia.

   “The scholarship opened up a whole different world for us,” Peggy Imai, director of study abroad, said. “Typically, Asia is not a huge seller on this campus, so as time has gone on this scholarship has opened up that world to a point where I think it is going to be increasingly competitive to get the scholarship,” Imai said. 

   “When am I going to get another opportunity like this?” said Julia Callini ’24, an elementary education and psychology major.

   Ayres said that after being accepted to the program, the students worked with The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) to be placed in an eight-week internship that aligns with their academic and professional interests.

Braden Dwinell ’24

   Braden Dwinell ’24, who majors in anthropology, history, and education studies with a concentration in museum studies, traveled to Seoul. 

   While he was there, Dwinell served as an intern with two different schools. He focused on teaching English to South Korean students.

   “We would go about this by using the American curriculum and doing projects, but we are using English the whole time,” Dwinell said. “It expands their vocabulary and they can perfect their English.”

   Dwinell worked with third graders for the first half of his internship and kindergarteners for the second half. The kindergarteners were fascinated by Dwinell. “I have a beard, and in Korea beards are very uncommon, culturally they are considered dirty, so the kids would sit around me and try to touch my beard,” explained Dwinell.

    In South Korea, there are many expectations for children surrounding school. After the regular school day, South Korean students go to “night school” to do an extracurricular or build an additional skill. 

   Many of Dwinell’s students spoke multiple languages, played instruments, and participated in sports, but did not have much time to themselves. Dwinell did his best to make his time with the kids fun. “During our study sessions, I would help them with their homework and after that we would devote the time to doing something fun and just to be kids,” Dwinell said. 

Anyssa Logan ’24

View of Seoul, from Dapsimni, South Korea.

   Digital media and communications major Anyssa Logan ’24 also went to Seoul. Logan interned for a Korean start-up company, Minglecon. The company is located in Pangyo, South Korea’s “Techno Valley,” and is focused on teaching English to students. 

   Logan worked as a digital marketer and created content for the company. “I was basically working with their gaming tech and making that into content,” Logan said. “I would then play their games, edit it, and make the video.”

   Although she knew technology played a large role in South Korea, Logan was surprised by how pervasive it is. She said there were cameras everywhere, and the subway system plays little jingles when your train is coming. Instead of a walk sign appearing when it is time to cross the road, a line on the street itself will turn green, “Everything was teched out,” Logan explained.

   Some of the challenges that came with living in Seoul was navigating the city. Seoul is very condensed and does not have Google or Apple maps. Instead, students used Naver, a Korean-specific map. “Having to realize you have to change how you move around was a big shocker,” Logan said. 

   One of Logan’s favorite aspects of the trip was meeting people. Logan explained that South Koreans are very friendly and want to get to know you. “They are feeling the same curiosity we are, and when you get to talk to them, it’s super cool. It was so fun to meet so many people,” Logan said.

Julia Callini ’24 in Halong Bay, Viet- nam.

Julia Callini ’24

   Julia Callini did her internship in Ho Chi Minh City, with a public health company called Survival Skills Vietnam. Callini worked with Reagan Dufresne ’24 to create a mental health first aid course. 

    There is a lack of mental health awareness in Vietnam. Anxiety and depression are not part of the Vietnamese vocabulary, Callini explained. Mental health issues are often viewed as shameful. “Our job was to help someone in crisis and get them to back down,” Callini said.

   The first aid course designed by Dufresne and Callini was not about providing therapy or ensuring psychological wellness; rather, it was designed to keep a person in danger safe for the time being. The goal was also not to create an Americanized course. 

   As part of their project, Callini and Dufresne talked with a 911 operator and a suicide hotline. “We learned what their practices were and how we could make a culturally competent mental health first aid course,” Callini said. “I am really proud of how it turned out.”

Mia Cooper ’24

   Public health and psychology major Mia Cooper ’24 spent her time in Ho Chi Minh City teaching a course on how to write an APA paper. She created the curriculum and taught the class. In addition, she led an LGBTQ+ support group using music therapy, art therapy, and mindfulness tactics. 

   Cooper noted that one of the differences between the United States and Vietnam was the perception of time and management. 

   “In the U.S. we are focused on getting as much done in as little time as we need,” Cooper said. “In Vietnam, work culture prioritizes rest and productivity is not as focused on.” 

   At Survival Skills Vietnam, employees would come to work in flip-flops, walk around the office barefoot, and take two-hour naps during the day, Callini said. 

Greg Hurter ’24

   Greg Hurter ’24, a public health and equity studies major with a biology minor, also went to Ho Chi Minh City. Hurter interned at the Research Center for Infectious Diseases at the Vietnam National University doing different research projects. 

From left to right, Swapnil Jhajharia ’24, Greg Hurter ’24, and Tallis Diehn ’24, in Bangkok Thailand.

   “My main roles were identifying different strains of staphylococcus and streptococcus to see if they could transfer from wild boars to humans,” Hurter said. 

   Hurter also worked on a survey project that was published and funded by the University of Indiana, which studied how sociodemographic factors influence attitudes toward antibiotic resistance. 

   Hurter applied to the program because of the public health opportunities it provided. “I think I have a pretty good idea how health systems function in higher-income countries, but it is really important to understand how they function in lower-income countries too, and Vietnam was a perfect example of that,” Hurter said. 

   While they were not working, students were able to travel around the country, or to different countries. “I traveled somewhere new every weekend,” said Callini, “My favorite part was meeting other travelers and hearing their stories.” Outside of Vietnam, Callini traveled to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. 

   “You are going for work, but that is not the only experience you are going to get. You are going to get that cultural experience, you are going to get that connection with other people,” said Logan.

   “There is no other time where I see myself pushing myself that far.”

   Next summer, St. Michael’s College and the Freeman Foundation plan to send students to Seoul and Ho Chi Minh City again. 

Applications are now being accepted for the annual Global Citizen internship program.