York celebrates awarding of first international internships

Eli Kimmerling will have an interesting summer job this year. Kimmerling, a second-year biology student in York’s Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, will be doing underwater marine surveys off the coast of Mexico as part of a special internship program at York University. 

Right: Eli Kimmerling

He and 24 other students at York are  about to embark on the experience of a lifetime as the first students to participate in York’s new International Internship Program.

The International Internship Program is the first of its kind in Canada and provides unique opportunities for students to work in a variety of international placements. Besides providing valuable work experience, the program also gives the interns a $3,000 stipend to cover their costs. The stipend program is unusual because the more common practice for most international internship programs is that host organizations must provide funding and students cover their own costs. The program is also unique in that York has arranged the placements for the interns.


Above: Student interns participating in York’s new International Internship Program

The students, both undergraduates and graduates, come from a variety of faculties, including Arts, Environmental Studies and Education, and will work for a three-month period in a broad range of placements. While some are in Canada, most are abroad, in regions as diverse as South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Joseph Silva, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Education who will be working on an Agriteam Canada project in Peru, noted that many of the internships also provide assistance in developing countries. “The goal,” Silva said, “is to improve basic education in Peru’s northern provinces.” Silva exemplifies the ambition the interns display to share the skills and knowledge they have acquired at York with their host countries while at the same time gaining new skills and life experiences during the course of their placement.

On April 6, the successful applicants gathered at a reception hosted by the offices of the Vice-President Academic and Associate Vice-President International. The students met with several deans from York as well as with representatives from the host organizations they will be working with. Many faculty members also attended the get-together.

Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic, spoke to the students about the uniqueness of the program, complimented them on their excellence in having been selected, and wished them good luck in their internships.

Michelle Dagnino, who holds a BA and MA in political science from York and is currently attending Osgoode Hall Law School, shared stories about her own international internship experience in Brussels, Belgium, which she arranged. She also gave students advice in preparation for their upcoming experiences, such as taking the time to get to know the city, country, and region where they are stationed, and making the effort to learn another language.

“I think that the idea of York Internships is the best thing I have seen at the University in terms of following up on its pledge toward diversity,” said Cale Ettenberg, a second-year student in the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, “It allows people who would not normally have this opportunity to venture out and sample a world of possibilities, then bring this information back into the York community.”

The range of different disciplines involved is unique. Students from a wide range of academic backgrounds will gain international experience and make international connections important to their academic programs and future careers.

A common understanding among organizers and interns at the reception was that students leaving on internship placements would act as ambassadors, not just for York, but for Canada. Naturally, the hope is that on their return this process will continue, with the students sharing their new-found knowledge and experience with fellow York students and the broader community.

Both Sheila Embleton and Adrian Shubert, associate vice-president international, shared their hope that the International Internship Program will grow over time so that even more students may gain valuable international experience during their time at York.

Most of the student internships are scheduled to begin in early May and continue through August.

This article was submitted to YFile by Robert Read, a web communications & publications assistant in the office of the Associate Vice-President International.