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Eight weeks in Asia: W&M students get real-world experience a world away

{{youtube:medium:center|zW_H_ez5Evw, Caleb Turner '20 spent his summer as a marketing intern in Beijing}}

Twenty William & Mary students departed for internships in Asia this summer through the Freeman Intern Fellowship Program. They returned with souvenirs in their suitcase, professional work experience on their resume and a better understanding of the career path in their future.

The Freeman Intern Fellowship program places undergraduates in structured summer internship opportunities throughout East Asia. Locations include Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Seoul, the Philippines and many more. Each student receives around $5,000 to defray living and travel expenses.

The purpose behind the Freeman Intern Fellowships program is to introduce American students to Asia. Through the internships, students will clarify their career interests and gain professional experience in a real-world setting, while improving their understanding of Asian cultures.

One of these students is Daria Moody ’22, who interned with HekaBio in Tokyo. HekaBio pursues healthcare innovations in pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices and advanced therapies. During her internship Moody conducted medical market research, compiled corporate portfolios and revenue projections, translated reports and summarized and presented her findings to her colleagues.

Moody is on the pre-med track with plans to major in chemistry and Asia and Middle-Eastern studies. She said her Freeman internship gave her fresh insights into the business side of medicine and working in a professional team.

“I was able to see how a new drug or medical device goes from conception, through trials, approval processes and all the way to something a doctor can prescribe,” Moody said. “I felt like I was actually making an impact in the work HekaBio was doing. Although I was an intern, I was not just getting coffee — I was able to work under different people and learn how each of their specialties came together to accomplish company goals.”

Abby Boyce shares her internship experience at the Freeman Info Session.Abby Boyce ’21 is an international relations and sociology double-major who interned with Village Focus International, a non-government organization (NGO) in Laos. VFI aids the development of rural villages by preserving land rights, improving food security and eliminating human trafficking.

VFI operates shelters for human trafficking survivors where they are trained in sustainable agricultural methods and producing consumer goods. One such shelter — the Green Earth Center — is reliant on grant funding to operate, and Boyce worked to create a business plan to transform the shelter into a financially self-sustaining operation.

Near the halfway point of her internship she wrote an article about the unexploded ordnance that litter the countryside, left behind after the U.S. bombed the country in the 1960s and 70s in what's termed the "Secret War." Tens of millions of remaining bombs pose a daily threat to the people of Laos and safely disposing of these munitions is one of the country’s sustainable development goals. The greatest obstacle to the clean-up is a lack of funding.

A bomb crater on the Plain of Jars in LaosBefore writing the report she knew very little about the “Secret War.” Boyce said living and working alongside the people of Laos lit a fire inside of her to raise awareness about the issue in the U.S.

“I expected to be a bit uncomfortable (living abroad), to learn a lot about development and working for an NGO, and to grow as an individual,” Boyce wrote in her Summer Research Blog. “All these expectations came to fruition — in much bigger ways than I could have imagined — and with them came about a million experiences and feelings I could never have imagined. One thing I was not prepared for is how large an impact this summer would have on how I view the world and my place in it.”

Back home

The 2019 Freeman Intern Fellows

When Freeman students return stateside, they enroll in a COLL 300 course with their fellow Freeman interns. During the course, each fellow develops a research project or creative work that stems from their experience in Asia.

Francis Tanglao Aguas, director of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies Program and the faculty director of the Freeman Intern Fellowship Program, teaches the program’s COLL 300 course, which he calls a “think tank” split into three segments.

First, students present a recap of their internship to their fellow interns and workshop ideas for their final project. Second, they host info sessions to shed light on the program for prospective Freeman applicants. Finally, they conduct their research project or creative work and generate new knowledge born from their internship. As a professor of theatre and Asian & Pacific Islander American studies, Tanglao Aguas said he is fascinated by the diverse ways W&M students produce knowledge that serves their varied professions.

“The idea is that our creativity and intellect is always served by new and exciting stimuli,” Tanglao Aguas said. “The Freeman Intern Fellowship program is crucial to our students' education because it allows our students to fully encounter places and people beyond the books, digital media, and classroom discussions. As W&M graduates the leaders of tomorrow, the experience of humanizing others they would not normally encounter in person is but all too vital.”

Boyce was surprised by what she learned during her summer in Laos.

“If you had told me when I left the U.S.A. in May that the topic I would be most passionate about was unexploded ordnance, I certainly would not have believed you,” Boyce wrote in her blog. “Yet, I think that the biggest lasting impact I can make is through extensively researching UXO (leftover unexploded ordnance) and bringing that knowledge back to the U.S.”

Looking ahead to next summer

Freeman interns in LaosThe Freeman Intern Fellowships program is now accepting student applications for the summer of 2020. As the program enters its third year, there are 22 internship placements for applicants to choose from ranging across East Asia. Students may also identify their own internship in the region. To learn more about the available opportunities and to apply, visit the Charles Center's website. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1.

Two new internships are available for 2020. The first is with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, an extension of the same internship partner located in Manila where W&M students interned the past two summers. The second new internship partnership is with the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation in Jakarta.

The Freeman Intern Fellows program is administered by the Charles Center, which works together with the Program in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Program in Asian and Pacific Islander-American Studies to provide high-impact internship opportunities in Asia for W&M students.

As its name would suggest, this program is made possible by a generous grant from the Freeman Foundation. Prior grants from the Freeman Foundation led to the creation of the APIA and AMES programs.

“It demonstrates how deeply the generosity of the Freeman Foundation has impacted the fortification of Asian Studies and internationalization at William & Mary,” Tanglao Aguas said. “Because of the Freemans' commitment to Asian Studies at William & Mary, our university has one of the strongest programs studying Asia and Asians in the United States.”