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Gaining Professional Experience and Global Learning as an Iacocca Intern

Lehigh University Iacocca international interns (from left) Emily Linderman '19, Jessica Hicks '19, Gili Remen '19, and Kendall Coughlin ’19 enjoyed the beautiful view from the rooftop of Duomo di Milano (Cathedral of Milan), the largest church in Italy.

Lehigh University is committed to educating students for global leadership to help ensure they are prepared to navigate across cultures and embrace collaboration with others from diverse fields and backgrounds. One of Lehigh’s most generous advocates for global learning is Lee Iacocca ’45 who established the Iacocca International Internship Program to support students interested in living and working abroad. Other Lehigh alumni, parents, and friends have also generously contributed to this program so approximately 100 students can participate in this fully-funded opportunity annually.

In the six years since the program began, more than 400 students have interned in 40 countries. Students live and work overseas for six to ten weeks, getting real-world professional experience while being immersed in a new culture. Students develop intercultural sensitivity and competency and self-efficacy while significantly enhancing their career readiness.

In summer 2017, journalism major and New Jersey native Kendall Coughlin ’19 was one of 99 Iacocca international interns who worked in 29 countries. She interned in Milan, Italy, at LUXOS Magazine.

Describe your Iacocca international internship.
I traveled with three other Lehigh students to Italy for seven weeks for communications internships. Journalism Department Chair Jack Lule accompanied us and supported us as group intern director. I worked at a company called LUXOS Magazine as the social media and public relations manager. LUXOS is a multi-platform news company that focuses on luxury, beauty, style, and travel, providing content for cities around the world.

What experiences or skill set were you hoping to obtain by participating?
As a journalism student, I hoped to gain international exposure to another country. I have never had the opportunity to travel outside of the United States prior to my Iacocca Internship, and I wanted to immerse myself in a new culture to challenge my critical thinking and confidence skills. I also wanted the opportunity to apply my coursework to a real-world setting and felt that an international experience would provide me with challenges to grow as a student and as an individual.

Were there any obstacles that you encountered?
One of the largest obstacles I encountered every day was the language barrier. Knowing little to no Italian, I struggled to communicate with locals who did not speak English. Something so simple that we all take for granted in America is sharing a common language and being able to communicate with one another. I had to learn how to navigate an entirely new city in a foreign language to get to and from work every day. With these tasks came lessons of patience and creative thinking. I had to step outside of my comfort zone to communicate with others in my office and around the city of Milan. The language barrier taught me to appreciate human nature, compassion, and roll with the punches of life.

Were you able to overcome the obstacles and how?
I was able to overcome this obstacle by learning key phrases in Italian. Twice a week I took an Italian class which taught me words and phrases I used daily to convey to Italians that I was attempting to learn their language. Although my Italian was far from perfect, I appreciated the smiles of the welcoming Italians anytime I would try to put words or phrases together. They appreciated the gesture and kindness of Americans trying to learn their language and were always welcoming and helpful.

How did you benefit from your international experience?
My Iacocca international internship experience provided me with more opportunities to grow that I would never experience on campus. I was able to increase my global awareness while gaining international experience in a professional setting. Throughout the seven weeks, I was exposed to situations that contributed to the development of my professional and academic career. I was able to apply my writing, critical thinking, analytical skills, and teamwork at an international level.

Was the experience different than the anticipated outcome?
Nothing can prepare you for the experience of an international internship or time abroad. While you can mentally prepare for the challenges of studying and working in another country, you have to learn and adapt to the culture once you land. I knew that I would grow and be challenged, but I was so surprised to come home feeling more confident in my professional skills and development as a student.

How did the experience prepare you for your professional aspirations or life skill set?
I was able to learn what traits and qualities are my best and which are my weakest. This awareness will aid in the continuous development of my professional career. A full 40-hour work week in another country challenged my confidence skills and taught me how to handle situations outside of my comfort zone.

Would you recommend other students to participate in a study abroad experience and why?
Absolutely. I would recommend any student to gain international experience in any country. Regardless of your major, or career path, being able to live, study, and work in another country challenges you in so many ways. Because of my Iacocca internship, I feel more prepared for the real world. I have already been able to use my international experience as a talking point in interviews. I am able to talk about the lessons I learned, and the challenges I faced, in Milan with potential employers.

What would you say to those who provided this opportunity?
I can never say thank you enough to Mr. Lee Iacocca and other donors for this incredible opportunity. I have dreamed of traveling the world ever since I learned how to read and write. When applying to Lehigh, I was eager to learn about all of the unique opportunities that are a result of donors’ generosity. Due to financial circumstances, I have never been able to leave the country until this opportunity came along. Because of the amazing generosity of Mr. Iacocca and others, I was able to have an international experience that I never believed I would be able to have. After leaving Milan, I felt like a changed person, and I owe that all to the donors who made this all possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to provide experiences to Lehigh students.