How do you figure out how to make a personal and professional connection remotely? This week, Antonia talks about 3 things you can do to make the most of virtual meetings and have worthwhile conversations with people you study or intern with. It might take a little bit more effort than in-person encounters, but it'll be worth it!
One of the aspects that I thought I would definitively lose in a remote study abroad experience was meeting new people. I knew I would be acquainted with people, but would I really meet and be able to connect with others remotely?
I feel like it’s common to hear students that have studied abroad talk about how close they become to their peers while exploring another country. There is no doubt that navigating the challenges and achievements of study abroad together would inevitably form a strong bond between people. But I am not traveling and at the end of the day it’s only me and my computer.
It may just look like it’s me and my desk all day. But there are so many opportunities to meet others virtually.
Or at least that’s what I thought. It turns out I’m wrong. You can truly connect with people through Zoom meetings, emails, and text messages. It will take a bit more effort than in-person, but it is definitely worth it.
1. Be the One to Make the First Move
The deal with remote work is that you will have quite a few opportunities when you are virtually face-to-face with others. Between Zoom meetings, classes, and virtual events, you could probably meet a handful of people every week. Let’s be honest, just because the social space is digital doesn’t make the first encounter any less awkward. You are connecting to these meetings with people that are all over the world. It is normal to feel nervous especially after a period when social interaction is at an all-time low.
Don’t let this stop you. Be the person that breaks up the awkward silence and starts the conversation. The most probable outcome is that you will make others comfortable to speak up too. Ask people where they are from, where they are interning, or just what they have been up to this summer. Being the one to start the conversation will make you seem approachable and social. Pro tip: remember details from past conversations and use them later to start new ones.
2. Virtual Coffees are Real
Your morning coffee time might be your internship site’s afternoon teatime, but it still meets the purpose. If you were meeting people face-to-face, asking someone to go out for coffee might be the easiest way to get to know them a bit better. So just like many other aspects of our life, you can move this encounter to a virtual space.
A screenshot of a Zoom meeting.
While the main purpose of a study abroad class or internship is to work, networking could be just as important. Don’t let this opportunity go by without taking extra time to talk to your supervisor, workmates, professors or fellow interns. Chances are they probably have some good advice or are down for a friendly chat about what it is like living in another country. Additionally, networking and starting conversations are an important soft skill that everyone can use a little extra practice on.
3. Take Advantage of Extra Opportunities
If none of these ideas seem manageable to you and you need a little push to get started, try one of CAPA’s co-curricular programs. Through their events and programs like CAPA Pals, Ganzo, or Friendme, they will pair you with someone else, help you connect and even attend the first meeting to get the conversation going.
I took part in CAPA Pals and Friendme programs. CAPA pals introduced me to another American student that was interning in London. It was great to connect with her at the beginning of the program to discuss our placements, interviews, and our general expectations. The Friendme programs has introduced me to an Italian student studying in Florence. I highly recommend this program if you are wanting to experience an intercultural exchange. It has been fun to learn more about Italy and discuss cultural differences.
The opportunities to meet others are there, you just need to go for it. I know it is not the ideal situation, but my motto for this summer has been to take advantage of the opportunities I have, even though they are not ideal or expected.
Antonia Bignotti is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Human Biology major from the University of Kansas, she is remotely studying abroad in London this semester.
Antonia's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.