Profiles | UW and the community | UW News Blog
April 25, 2022
A years-long journey came to fruition this winter term when Paula Thiele walked into the mayor’s office, sat down at his desk, and became the University of Washington’s first intern in León, Spain.
Thiele, a communications major who will graduate this spring, has become the first scholar to participate in UW’s new scholarship for immersive internships in León, dubbed “¡Spain Works!” — a partnership between the UW León Center, UW Study Abroad, and the UW Career & Internship Center.
“I helped develop the idea of doing a practical internship abroad here in León, and my goal was to be the first student of many,” Thiele said. “It’s amazing to know that through my efforts, along with those of the Department of Communication and UW faculty, other students can follow in my footsteps and have incredible work experiences just like me.”
UW Provost Emeritus Jerry Baldasty, also a professor emeritus of communications who joined UW faculty in 1978 and has strong ties to the UW León Center, said he and other faculty recognize the transformative education made possible through the cultural immersion. He has worked with partners at Centro de Idiomas de Universidad de León – a key partner of UW León – which organizes homestays for UW students and provides Spanish lessons.
“It’s a combination of work experience and cultural immersion,” Baldasty said. “UW interns work at an internship site in León. They live with a local Spanish family and take Spanish lessons at the Centro de Idiomas. Our interns don’t just live in another culture, they learn what it’s like to work in another culture.
Thiele worked in the communications department of the mayor’s office (the Ayuntamiento de León), focusing on media relations and social media. His projects included developing content for social media, leading the translation of important historical articles on the city’s website, and monitoring events such as press conferences.
“This internship is fully tied to the UW communication department and many of the courses I took throughout my major,” Thiele said, noting in particular courses such as interpersonal communication, ethics media, communication and technology and ethnography studies. “This internship helped me apply and deepen what I learned in these courses, giving me real communication skills that I will use for my future jobs in this same field.”
An internship abroad requires a set of skills that students must develop quickly, such as becoming familiar with the culture and language, adapting to the job market and professional expectations in the new country, and understanding how to carry out a meaningful work in a new environment. As students become immersed in the Spanish culture, schedule, and way of life, they become more flexible, adaptable, and organized, having to not only get their work done, but make sure it fits in in this new context.
“León, Spain has a long history of welcoming UW students, and we are excited to expand our partnership through this new internship program,” said Briana Randall, executive director of the UW Career & Internship Center. “The benefits of international internships are vast, and with the support and structure provided by the UW León Center, interns will gain work experience and cross-cultural skills, which will help prepare them for professional success.”
The new program hopes to grow but needs additional funding and support to do so. Randall said there is a commitment for two internships in the winter of 2023 and she hopes to secure funding for three. Baldasty said the program prioritizes student access, meaning any student should be able to participate, regardless of financial status. Donor-funded scholarships cover travel, accommodation, and most UW fees for each UW intern, and fundraising efforts are underway for prospective interns.
“We couldn’t be happier with how Paula, our first intern, embraced this opportunity,” Baldasty said. “We were confident she would do well, but she far exceeded our hopes, representing the UW to the people of León – and in particular to the mayor’s office. We’re off to a good start!”
Thiele was featured earlier this month in a Leonoticias news article and video, in which León Mayor José Antonio Diez expressed his excitement for the partnership with UW and the prospects for future unpaid interns. only in the mayor’s communications office, but in other areas and throughout the city. .
Baldasty said he was meeting with potential partners in León to identify additional internship sites, particularly in the areas of communications, cybersecurity, social media, NGOs, government, business and technology.
For her part, Thiele seems just as excited about the prospects of future generations of students as she is about her own experience in León. She wants those considering such an opportunity to know that it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
“It’s, in all honesty, the best thing I’ve done,” she said. “Learning and adapting is quick, and the benefits can be reaped long after the internship is over. It’s an amazing experience to become more open-minded and see the job market from a different perspective. Applying is simple and the faculty will support you every step of the way.
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For more information contact Victor Balta at [email protected]
Tag(s): Department of Communication