Webster Athens Completes First Virtual Internships

Students at the Webster University Athens campus completed the first successful virtual internships in fall 2020, where students had the opportunity to gain valuable global experience and earn academic credit all from the comfort of their home.

The virtual internships came about as a result of the coronavirus restrictions for international travel and allowed students this unique opportunity to learn skills that employers are looking for in today’s market, to create relationships with international companies and to build their resumes. They expanded their educational/theoretical knowledge from their courses, and then applied this knowledge within a real-world setting throughout their internship.

Students could choose from four different virtual internship course topics:

  • Retail Business Analysis
  • Retail Business Social Media Promotion
  • Tourism Operations Project Management
  • Business to Business Research and Arrangements

Professor Angelos Kostopoulos, of the business department, coordinated the virtual internships after an application and interview process to determine each student’s interest and skills to make the appropriate placement with a participating company.

Students needed to complete 180 internship hours with the various projects they were assigned, in addition to weekly meetings with their company supervisors and meeting with Kostopoulos to discuss their progress. This was all done online via Zoom, Skype and email.

Growing Awareness, Brand for Businesses in Pandemic

Business student Giulina Sertl did her internship in Retail Business Social Media Promotion, pairing with the Greek company Apoella (the words “Apo Ellada” mean “from Greece”). The company was established in Crete in 2014, and offers a highly curated selection of brands from Greece and all over the world that capture the elegance of the Greek summer.

Sertl's task for the course was to take over the company’s social media and keep it in line with the brand’s aesthetics.

“The goal here was to increase brand awareness and increase traffic leading to Instagram," said Sertl, who created a content calendar for the account that helped it reach awareness goals. "I spent a lot of time researching the brand and going through brand presentations in order to better understand the philosophy and brand image. Over the internship, I set many goals for the Pinterest account in terms of analytics that I successfully reached. In a short amount of time, giulina helped the account increase from 800 views per month to 10,000.

“I then developed, evaluated, wrote, and executed a comprehensive marketing strategy and plan for Instagram," Sertl said. "Especially during this time of COVID-19, it was important for the brand to have more of a presence online to work with the new digital retail future. It is my hope that my work has been good preparation for the brand developing more of an online presence and ecommerce.”

Sertl reflected on the value of the experience, even in the virtual setting that became the norm for 2020.

“I absolutely loved the program. It was such an exciting and valuable experience to be able to work remotely in a strange time like this. While spending so much time at home, the internship gave me the opportunity to express my creativity, learn about a new culture, and help a retail business in a difficult time. I felt it was so valuable and has definitely been my favorite experience in my undergraduate career thus far.”

The supervisor at Apoella was pleased and called Sertl a “high performer," saying that “she delivered every task at hand and took initiatives herself."

Webster has been more than helpful and provided me with beneficial skills that I hope I can offer to others in the future

Student from WINS Partner Finds Internship 

Justice Frederick, a student at Athens through Webster's WINS* partner Spelman College, had a similar experience. Frederick took the Retail Business Analysis virtual internship course amd was paired with Leroy Merlin, a major player in the global DIY market.

*WINS, or Webster International Network Schools, is the program through which students at WINS partner institutions can study abroad through Webster's comprehensive campus network.

Frederick's objective was to “enrich the customer experience department's knowledge of PRO loyalty programs in the home improvement retail market, mainly in Greece and Europe and targeting technicians."

Justice researched information about PRO loyalty programs from various home improvement chains such as Home Depot, Lowe's, IKEA, Praktiker, and Bricoman, then delivered an analysis on the pros and cons of such loyalty programs.

“Justice was immediately plunged into the deep water and tasked to work on the company’s loyalty program where she provided management with a fresh, young American insight," said Professor Kostopoulos. "Her work opened local management’s eyes because of her thorough research, as well as her American consumer experience. Indeed, both Justice and LeRoy Merlin gained from this synergy.”

When asked about her experience, Frederick said: “I am more than grateful for the experience that I gained during my internship with Webster University. This pandemic has not made it easy to find many opportunities to gain business and management experience with big companies, especially internationally. However, Webster has been more than helpful and provided me with beneficial skills that I hope I can offer to others in the future.”

Internship Placement at Webster Athens

That combination of opportunity and experience is certainly the goal of the program, Kostopoulos said.

“The Virtual Internship Program at Webster’s Athens campus drew from our long-standing, informal, placement of our students in local companies for practical experience and possible future jobs," Kostopoulos said.

"With the formalization of the program within the approved courses offered by Webster, our internship opportunities have gone global.

"The program has tangible, positive and overtime quantifiable results. For me, this program should not be limited to the Covid lockdown period, as it can connect our students with the real economy through the medium of the internet. No other program is more hands-on than this one. It exposes our students to real business situations and allows them to gain invaluable experience in a new cultural environment. I am proud to be a part of Webster University’s global landscape.”

Webster Athens will continue to offer the virtual internships through spring and summer 2021. For more information on the offerings, please contact Dina Skias (skiasd@webster.edu) director of Student Affairs and Odyssey in Athens study abroad program.

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