In my previous blog post, “Interning Abroad: Work-Integrated Learning in a Global Context,” I discussed the positive impact of having an internship while studying abroad as an undergraduate student. In this post, I would like to delve deeper into my personal experiences with my international internship. To recap, I studied abroad in Sorrento, Italy, during the spring 2023 semester for five months. I lived and studied at the Sant’Anna Institute, where I also completed a communications internship with About Sorrento, a public relations organization that creates content about the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts. 

A rocky shoreline comes down to blue-green water. Pine trees and grasses are visible in the foreground. A paved walkway is visible on the left bank, with many people standing and sitting on it.

Not only was this my first time living and studying abroad, this opportunity was also my first experience interning at an organization outside of the context of my university. Both of these newly combined experiences created an environment that allowed me to grow professionally, personally, and academically by being in workplace and social surroundings that differed from that of the United States.  

The Internship 

I went into my study abroad experience, as well as my internship, with the goal of immersing myself into the local environment as much as possible within the small time frame I had. I interned with About Sorrento as a Writing and Photography Intern. About Sorrento is a public relations agency that highlights local places, history, events, and culture of towns on the Sorrento and Amalfi Coasts. The organization has a website that posts articles about the aforementioned topics, as well as Instagram and Facebook accounts that highlight places and events in nearby towns.  

A screenshot of the AboutSorrento website, showing a photo of Gianna with Sorrento in the background. An article title is visible: "#MyPOVSorrento - by Gianna Smurro"

During my first week in Sorrento, my faculty supervisor from Sant’Anna introduced me to my new supervisor, Pasquale, and the rest of the About Sorrento team. In the following months, I started working ten to twelve hours a week at my internship. One of my main tasks included writing a weekly blog called “My POV Sorrento,” which highlighted my own personal unique experiences living and traveling abroad. I also drafted posts for Instagram to promote my articles. 

One of the most memorable days of my internship was working with About Sorrento’s photographer, Francesca, to take pictures during the parade procession of Sant’Antonino Abate, the patron saint of Sorrento. I was at the front of the procession with all the photographers from local publications and websites, and I learned a lot from Francesca about how to take great photos in a fast-paced environment.  

Support Systems While Interning

What made the internship program at the Sant’Anna Institute such a seamless transition for me was the many support systems put into place to create the foundation for a rewarding experience. Not only did I have the support of my supervisor and the rest of the About Sorrento team, but I also received guidance from Sant’Anna’s Internship Coordinator, communications faculty supervisor, and school counselor. 

In addition, all the interns, including myself, who were placed at internships across various disciplines, businesses, and organizations, participated in an internship course that met once a week. During these sessions, the Internship Coordinator would conduct discussions and assign coursework for us to reflect on and document the skills we were developing during our internships. 

A courtyard is surrounded with the arched walkway of a tall building made of tan stone. Flowers, trees, and a small fountain fill the courtyard.

The internship course also had learning objectives related not just to developing professional workplace skills, but also “developing knowledge and understanding of diverse perspectives, global awareness, or other cultures.” This objective was assessed through a written journal submitted to the Internship Coordinator based on a prompt related to the week’s course topic. Example topics included developing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) goals, listening and openness, flexibility, and integrity and professionalism.  

These journals, as well as the work achieved in our internships, were recorded on personal ePortfolio websites. These ePortfolios were reviewed individually by the Internship Coordinator with each student intern at weekly meetings outside of our class time. During these meetings, we would go over our journal responses as well as discuss the progression, successes, and challenges of our internships.  

A small bay with a marina filled with boats is surrounded by buildings along a tall rocky shoreline.

On a biweekly basis, I met with my faculty supervisor, Dr. Annemarie Kent-Willette, a Professor of Communication at Jacksonville University and the Executive Director of the Global Center for Teaching and Learning. These meetings focused on the industry-specific skills in practice at my internship, which allowed me to reflect on the communications skills I was fostering through my workplace projects, as well as discuss other skills I could contribute to About Sorrento’s work.  

Once a month, all the student interns also met in a large group with the school’s counselor to discuss our transition to living and working in a new country. Although there are many aspects of the work and life culture in Italy that are similar to that of the United States, there are a few differences that made the transition for some of the interns a little harder than for others. These group discussions with the counselor allowed everybody to share how they were processing and reflecting upon their individual experiences. 

The Personal Effects of an Internship Abroad

What I found so special about this internship was the way it allowed me to connect with and become immersed in my study abroad location on a level that I did not anticipate. Since the nature of my articles was about the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts, I was driven to seek out new places and activities, often on my own. I had to adapt to writing for a multinational audience as my articles were being read by people across Europe and the United States. Writing with intentionality for my readers allowed my articles to connect with a wide cast of people.  

A screenshot of an Instagram post from AboutSorrento shows a narrow city street leading to the bell tower of the Sorrento Cathedral. A hand holds up a small painting of the same view.

This global experience allowed me to enhance my skills of initiative and flexibility, as well as skills linked to living abroad, such as adaptability and cross-cultural communication. This internship, more than any other I have participated in, has shown me how having an exchange of ideas and knowledge is a main component of a successful internship. Some of the members of the About Sorrento team spoke very little English, so we had to bridge the gap between languages to foster effective collaboration; I improved my Italian, while they improved their English. I was also able to share with the team what I have learned in my university courses and previous internships in the United States, while they introduced me to a new style of writing and photography that could only be learned in a workplace environment. 

Overall, this internship was not only a professional endeavor, but a chance to immerse myself in an unfamiliar community. The opportunity to contribute my perspective to About Sorrento’s work allowed me to explore and connect with the local community in a way that I had not foreseen. Ultimately, this internship showed me the profound impact that work-integrated learning has in a global context for establishing a more interconnected, professional landscape. 

Gianna Smurro is a journalism and cinema major at Elon University. She is a 2022-2025 CEL Student Scholar working with the 2022-2024 research seminar on Work-Integrated Learning.

How to Cite this Post

Smurro, Gianna. 2023. “A Global Perspective: Interning While Studying Abroad.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. November 7, 2023.