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Want to intern in East Asia? This grant may make it possible, whatever your major

  • Inaugural interns:
    Inaugural interns:  The inaugural group of interns pose for a photo with Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies and director of the AMES program, and Freeman Foundation Program Director Juefei Wang during his visit to campus in November 2018.  Photo courtesy of Francis Tanglao Aguas
  • Think tank:
    Think tank:  This semester, the student interns are taking a COLL 300 class to discuss their experiences and explore new facets of the communities in which they lived.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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William & Mary students majoring in any subject will once again have the opportunity to live and work in East Asia this summer, thanks to a grant from the Freeman Foundation.

The organization recently provided the university $110,000 to support a second year of Freeman Foundation internships in Asia. The program is administered and supported by W&M’s Charles Center for Academic Excellence in coordination with the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) programs, and with support from the Reves Center for International Studies.

Last summer — with the support of another Freeman grant — 20 W&M students took part in the program, working in a multitude of industries in locations from Tokyo to Taiwan. This semester, they are participating in a COLL 300 class that allows them to share their experiences with one another and examine their time abroad from new angles.

“The Freeman initiative exemplifies William & Mary’s deep commitment to intellectual, international and cultural openness,” said Teresa Longo, dean for interdisciplinary studies and director of the Charles Center. “Through the Freeman grant, we have created real world work experiences for our students and challenged them to bring what they learn back home to the William & Mary classroom. This is an excellent example of the Liberal Arts at work.”

The inaugural year

The Freeman Foundation has been instrumental in expanding Asian studies at W&M, according to Francis Tanglao Aguas, professor of theatre and Asian-American studies and founding director of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies Program. Starting in 2002, grants from the foundation have helped the university increase its Asian studies resources and courses, leading to the creation of the APIA and AMES programs. With the recent implementation of the COLL 300 course requirement at W&M, which focuses on providing students with international perspectives and experiences, Tanglao Aguas saw a chance for another collaboration with the foundation.

He partnered with Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies and director of the AMES program; Deenesh Sohoni, associate professor of sociology; Joel Schwartz, professor of government and former director of the Charles Center, and other colleagues to develop a grant proposal for the internships.

(Left to right) Teresa Longo, Dean of Arts & Sciences Kate Conley, Juefei Wang, Francis Tanglao Aguas and Stephen Sheehi pose for a photo together. (Courtesy photo)Once approved, a number of faculty members used their personal and professional contacts in East Asia, including graduates of the AMES and APIA programs, to identify internship possibilities for students. The professors also worked with University Advancement to identify additional alumni who might be interested in providing students internships or supporting them while abroad. The result was a wide range of opportunities in fields from business to art with companies and organizations including Nippon Neuroscience, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the East Asia Institute, the Institute for Peace and Unification, Cocoon Capital Partners, Sekitani Lab and the Jing-A Brewing Company.

“One of the wonderful facets of this internship program is the diversity of student interests, not only of location but what our students are able to learn,” said Tanglao Aguas.

Fifty-five students from 17 majors ranging from biology to international relations applied for 20 internships in locations throughout East and Southeast Asia, including Laos, the Philippines, South Korea and Cambodia.

“I was happy but not surprised (about number of students interested) because I know that the William & Mary student is really curious about the world and that our prospective applicants come to William & Mary because we belong to the top tier of universities who really encourage our students to go abroad,” said Tanglao Aguas.

All of the students received $5,000 to cover their travel expenses and were connected to internship supervisors, who were asked to help them find housing. Sheehi served as the program’s coordinator and checked in with the students several times throughout their internships.

Emma Shainwald ’20 and Patrick Canteros ’20 were among the inaugural interns in the program. Canteros, a double major in finance and APIA studies, worked in Hong Kong for the business firm Contineo, formerly led by W&M alumnus Mark Munoz ’97, and Vectr Ventures, a venture capital fund where Munoz now serves as a partner. Shainwald, an APIA studies major, interned in Shanghai teaching English at Bement School and working at the Yuz Museum, helping with English translation for their publications and exhibits.

Canteros said that he learned much from his internships.

“I learned a good amount and am transposing that to what I’m doing now academically,” he said. “I’m taking this class on equity and portfolio management, and it’s very similar to what I was doing at Vectr. So I think it was really good for real-world application. I think it was also good for providing a lens on the industry.”

Shainwald said she was able to significantly improve her Mandarin language skills as the result of the experience, and she enjoyed working with the children and learning about art.

“But aside from the internship, it was helpful for me to learn how to be alone and how to learn and develop on my own,” she said. “I really enjoyed being put in these situations you can’t anticipate and seeing where they can go from there.”

A new plant

Shainwald and Canteros are now part of Sheehi’s COLL 300 course with the other students who interned. For the first half of the class, the students explored aspects of East Asia they might not have encountered, such as LGBTQ life, women’s movements or Muslim history in East Asia, said Sheehi. And in the second half, they are workshopping ideas for their final project.

Sheehi teaches the COLL 300 class. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)“The final was kind of assigned to them partially during the orientation when I asked them to keep an eye open to things they experienced, things that strike them as interesting or original or thought-provoking, something they may want to bring back with them apart from their actual internship,” Sheehi said. “It may be sparked by the internship, but I want the project separate from that. So it’s one way to use their experiences in the internship as the soil, but branch out and sort of grow a new plant with it.”

The students in the class rely on each other to workshop their project ideas, garnering insights from one another’s experiences and academic interests. Sheehi also provides the students with readings and other resources, including special visitors.

“It’s a mutual going back and forth between the scholarship that he provides and our experiences without it being an echo chamber, and I really love that aspect of the class,” said Shainwald.

As the class draws to a close in December, its students will compete with those in Sheehi’s COLL 100 course on the culture of Arab food as part of “The Great W&M Asia Cook Off.” The event — to be held Dec. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Integrated Science Center’s Elements Café — will be judged by Katsuya Fukushima, a celebrity chef, and Yama Juwayni, co-owner of several Washington, D.C. restaurants. Fukushima will also give a cooking demonstration at noon that day in the Sadler Center.

Tanglao Aguas is coordinating the next group of interns, and he, Sheehi and their colleagues have once again been hard at work to identify internship opportunities. This year, Tanglao Aguas is hoping to expand the list of geographical locations available and to offer additional opportunities in the humanities and arts for students. He has already made progress on those goals, arranging for internships with the Masakini Theatre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; the Office of the Deputy Rector for Internalization and Global Affairs and the Department of English Language and Literature at the International Islamic University Malaysia; the Creative Writing Center of the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, Philippines; and the Department of Fine Arts at Ateneo de Manila University.

A full list of internship opportunities for the summer of 2019 will be available on the Charles Center’s website starting Dec. 1. The deadline for applications is Feb. 1, 2019. Students — from freshmen to juniors (seniors aren’t eligible because of the fall course requirement) — majoring in any subject can apply.

For next summer’s interns, Shainwald has some advice.

“Be really, really open and expect the unexpected,” she said.