Virtual Italian translation internship helps students continue global learning

Intern Danielle Maus
Danielle Maus

With the pandemic wreaking havoc on international travel and study abroad opportunities, Italian Professor Elena Past collaborated with the Abruzzo Film Commission to create a virtual internship that gives students the chance to put their Italian to good use, even while at home in Michigan.

Past usually teaches an Italian film course as part of a summer study abroad program in Abruzzo, Italy. When that wasn’t possible, she wanted students to be able to stay involved in the world of Italian cinema so she constructed a program that allowed participants to translate breaking news such as festival and award announcements, new films and film screenings, as well as descriptions of Abruzzese locations, from Italian to English, she explains in her blog.

Student Danielle Maus was nearing the completion of her academic program and needed a study abroad program for her global studies major. The virtual class provided just the opportunity she needed, and allowed her and her fellow interns to blog about their experiences.

“This internship was perfect for me; it combined my interests and my studies,” Maus, who is also studying film and Italian, says. “It was the perfect medley for me. It was honestly great to be able to continue my work and studies in a virtual setting despite the pandemic,” she says. “I'm grateful for my work and education and grateful for all the people and all the effort it took to continue opportunities just like this Italian/film internship, even if it had to be virtual. I got to stay on track with graduation and still be a part of something cool.”

Four students participated in the internship, including global studies and public health major Pallavi Kurakula, who had hoped to participate in the Abruzzo study abroad program in person.

“I figured I can’t be upset about missing out on that forever, and I can get some experience with this,” Kurakula says. “At the end, seeing my name attached to something culturally significant that was expanding global culture for an American audience, it was really cool and special.

“I really enjoy applying a global perspective to any field. That’s one of the reasons I was really excited to work on the translation internship. To be able to push forward a love of art and film - it was cool. Being able to work in a global community across different cultures is so important. All of us are different and have different skills. It was exciting to be able to work on projects that are beneficial to people in multiple communities. I love the idea of working on a platform that benefits everybody.”

Maus says she is interested in seeing where the program goes from here and hopes to say involved with it.

“I feel like I learned a lot about the translation process, along with what the film community in Abruzzo is like,” Maus says. “I learned how to manage my schedule, how to use context clues and the language skills I do have to translate, as well as how to be reliable for a team member (and) prioritizing your part so the next step of the process can happen. It's heartwarming to still be able to connect with others. It helped me get through the pandemic. Having people to talk to. Having something to do and work towards helped me. Despite the pandemic, it definitely gave me a more flexible schedule and less of a commute to school.”

Kurakula says that the internship was a virtual travel experience through writings. “The writing we were translating was so intricate, and having access to all these beautiful pictures, it really did feel like a virtual study abroad. Also, being able to talk with the cultural director, it made me further understand that I’m not just translating to a void, there are people looking forward to this work. It was nice to be a part of a global team. It gave me a sense of global camaraderie. It’s not just for Italians, it’s for everyone.

“Dr. Past is great, she really wanted us to have a great experience with this. We really got lucky being able to work with her. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have been able to have this outlook on global projects, she really pushed us to get the most out of this as we could.”

While both Maus and Kurakula say it would have been preferable to have studied in person in Abruzzo, they are grateful this opportunity was provided to them.

“I think it's important to offer these kind of virtual study experiences,” Maus says. “It allows people to stay on track with their studies and work at something despite the challenges and obstacles presented because of the pandemic or even other things in life. It helps many people.”

When it comes to virtual study abroad courses, Kurakula recommends anyone with an opportunity to try one does so.

“You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish from home if you have the right supervision and teamwork on your side. Especially if it’s something that is of huge interest to you, you should not let online stop you from further discovering new concepts. You should continue to expand your network and meet new people, even if it is online.”

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State's global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university's global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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