Alumni Spotlight: Adapting to the Global Workplace, Virtually

Daeun Kim is one of the many interns within the Cultural Vistas network that had to change their plans and intern virtually instead of abroad. Read more about how she adapted to the new global workplace through her placement via Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST program.

Hi Vistans! My name is Daeun Kim and I’m from South Korea. I am currently a senior majoring in English Literature at Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea. I am interested in English and U.S. culture and want to know and experience life in America, so I applied for an exchange program and internship experience.

Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the exchange program was canceled, and the internship program changed to a 100% virtual program. I was disappointed at first; obviously, it would be great to go to America and work in a real office. But, rather than dwell on my misfortune, I changed my mind and became grateful for getting a chance to have such a new experience. So, I enrolled in The Washington Center and got ready to become a virtual intern. After having some interviews with advisors and companies, I connected with Cultural Vistas and started work as a virtual intern in February 2021.

I am very pleased to work with Cultural Vistas; the reception has been incredibly warm. They respected not just my time difference but also my culture. For example, in the very first week when I started work as an intern, it was time to celebrate the Lunar New Year. During this holiday, we visit our grandparents’ houses and meet with relatives to spend time together with a great deal of food. I did not expect that I could have a day off for the holiday, but thanks to the consideration of Cultural Vistas, I could go to my grandparents’ house and spend time with them without worry. It was very thoughtful and made me feel that I am respected.

In the beginning, especially before I got matched with a company, it was tough to adjust the time difference. The time difference between Seoul and Washington, D.C. is 13-14 hours, depending on the time of year. Most interviews and advising sessions took place for me from 12 AM to 4 AM KST. I was confused about time and exhausted from staying up too late or waking up so early. Three things were happening to me at that time; part-time job, placement of internship, and classes; it was kind of hectic. I had to gather myself together to ensure that I was not missing any events. And that made my calendar need to be super flashy. I wrote down all the deadlines of any materials that I needed to submit and virtual meetings on the same calendar using a variety of pens and color-coding

But, once I matched to the company, the chaotic days ended and I fully adapted. My supervisor understood my circumstances and scheduled meetings that worked for both of us. There were no more confusing timetables or waking up in the middle of the night.

Digesting English so early morning or late at night is hard; however, I tried to enjoy the moment. I

would find myself thinking, “this is fun and weird. Probably no one of my friends from Korea would have this kind of experience like me!”

In order to stay organized and focused, I have two laptops, a new one and an old one. I use the new laptop for doing work and assignments which are relevant to the internship program. And I do schoolwork and tasks outside of the internship with the older one. This division makes it possible to focus on one thing. It is a useful way for me to avoid distraction and confusion.

There is less pressure for getting up early and going to the office while working as a virtual intern, but at the same time, there is the uncertainty of what I am doing and anxiety about falling behind. To overcome these struggles, I give myself some time to recharge to focus on work with a clear mind. In addition, it is helpful to rotate projects, not just to adjust to the time difference but also to help me not get bored and escape from repetitive tasks. Additionally, I set aside my coffee time. It is a little thing, but I think it is important to start work with liveliness and feel motivated. I do miss chatting with coworkers over coffee at the office, however, it gives me time to focus entirely on myself and find some inner peace.

It is great that I can have fun and work as an intern at the same time. Interning at home makes it possible to focus on parts of my life that I have neglected before. Now, I value this moment so much and am thankful for having this experience.