Global Business Goes Virtual: Reyna’s Virtual Internship

Every day at 4 p.m., Reyna Marks logged on to her computer and got to work as a marketing intern at Regional Branding Institute Co., Ltd. Her coworkers were also logging on, more than 7,600 km away and one calendar day ahead, in Japan.

Reyna is in the nationally ranked Certificate of International Studies in Business program at Foster and secured a summer internship in Tokyo. She was thrilled to get to live in a bustling city primed to host the 2020 Olympics. Then came the pandemic. Reyna had to pivot. Instead of crossing the Pacific she’d walk across her room and join the Japanese workforce online. While an initial disappointment she came to enjoy it as she immersed herself in this new space, speaking Japanese, adapting to the Japanese culture of work, and meeting weekly with her Japanese supervisor.

Her main intern project was to transform the company’s travel website. She used her marketing mindset to translate Japanese into English, considering what aspects of culture and meaning translated, what didn’t, and how to use words that were right for a western audience. She enjoyed her role and the independence given to completing tasks on her own time. She said that flexibility was a benefit of the virtual space. A challenge was the lack of instant communication. While it was a very collaborative and friendly workplace, not being able to drop by someone’s desk with smaller questions was challenging.

As she adapted to this world of work, she experienced Japanese culture in real ways. The company had messaging boards where she saw chats fly back and forth between her colleagues. She says, “I got a sense of how that’s different compared to the more casual conversations I’m used to, even when they’re just chatting or texting.” And in meetings, she picked up on non-verbal communication via video that demonstrated a more traditional tone.

In addition to increasing her cultural competence, Reyna grew both her network, developing positive relationships with her manager and the other interns, and her marketing skills. She says, “you can run into a lot of problems if you rely on your own point of views. I learned the importance of collaborating and asking for help, especially when it comes to this field.”

In the end, the internship was different than she planned for, but it was a success. Her advice to other UW students preparing for virtual internships is to go in with an open mind and to initiate conversations with colleagues. “It may feel more awkward to chat virtually but putting in the extra effort is worth it… the nature of a virtual job or experience requires you to communicate thoroughly and take more steps to ensure you’re heard.”

The Global Business Center looks forward to hearing even more success stories from Foster students who engage in virtual learning this year. We continue to work to ensure all students have opportunities to participate in transformative global experiences.