WHOA – Sereena Yeghiazarian

November 16, 2021

Portrait of a person

Ever since I could remember, I have always dreamt of studying abroad. Growing up, I would close my eyes, spin a globe, and blindly point my finger out to land on a random country. I was fascinated with the names of the cities, the neighboring countries, all the different oceans, and thought about the people who live there and what their lives are like. Additionally, coming from an immigrant household, I was exposed to different cultures and would hear stories from places on the other side of the world. With all this wonder and curiosity bubbling inside of me, I wanted to jump on any opportunity I could get to travel. 

Throughout my early academic years, I remember so many teachers encouraging us to study abroad if we were able to go to college and do so. Many even shared their own experiences abroad – my high school Spanish 2 teacher dedicated a whole class to share her unconventional story of studying abroad in Spain. Once I got into college, at my former university, I immediately looked into the various study abroad programs available. During my sophomore year, I sent in my application for a media-related internship in London, which would take place my junior year. However, with the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic brought a halt to in-person and international affairs.

 Fast forward a few months later, I had found myself transferring to UCSC completely online. When winter quarter came along, there was some hope of borders opening up again with the decrease of COVID cases. With newfound hope, I looked into UCSC’s summer programs and applied to an internship program in Berlin. Unfortunately, the program had to be canceled, but Global Learning had offered their Virtual Global Internship (VGI) program for those who still wanted to have experience working internationally. The VGI program was a new endeavor launched between Global Learning and Absolute Internship (AI), an organization specializing in connecting young scholars to professional internships across the globe. I decided to take this opportunity because it was the closest thing to studying abroad I’d be able to do–it was less expensive compared to an in-person abroad program, and I really wanted to collaborate with other artists from different cultures. 

Both UCSC Global Learning and Absolute Internship made the application process super easy. Absolute Internship (AI) required applicants to submit the industries, countries, and goals they were interested in and conducted one-on-one interviews to get to know us personally. Along with a guaranteed internship, AI also had resources such as language classes through Rosetta Stone, a cultural assessment to prepare you for interacting with your coworkers, and check-in appointments to assist you in your current and future goals. The interview process with your potential employer is not completely binding. If you don’t feel like that company or employer would be the best fit for you, you can tell your mentor at AI and they will help find a partnership better suited to your needs and interests.

After my initial interview with one of the AI team members, I was booked to have an interview with a Naples-born, Paris-based multimedia artist named Giovanni Ambrossio. Our interview went well and I was really interested in all the projects he had going on. Having an academic background in (mainly) U.S.-centric media, I was excited to see what new art was coming out of those specific European cities. The art did not disappoint; I found myself editing promotional videos for a performance piece that had to be submitted to multiple art festival committees, a documentary on football (soccer) fandom around the world, and creating eye-catching social media posts to spread the word about upcoming shows. 

Even though I was learning new skills and interacting with great art, there were still some obstacles in the road. For example, I wasn’t anticipating much trouble with the language barrier, but I did run into some misunderstandings. As Giovanni went over and critiqued my work, he often used the word “cute” to describe it. To me, the word “cute” in that context was somewhat demeaning; implying some sort of immaturity and naivety. Hearing this, especially as a woman in a professional field dominated by men, I felt insecure about my work. However, as time passed, I noticed that he would use “cute” to describe things he really liked, aesthetically. Another road bump occurred during the World Cup final. England was going against Italy in a game that would come down to penalty shots. Three out of five of England’s players to partake in the penalty kicks were substitute players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka – all of whom are Black. After missing their penalty shots, the three players faced racial harassment and abuse across multiple platforms. As headlines plastered news outlets and hashtags trended, I thought that this would be a major and important issue to talk about in Giovanni’s film about global football fandom – especially since he had recorded live footage from the streets of Italy when their team had won. However, when I proposed the topic to him, he appeared hesitant and quickly dismissed it. On first impression, I took this as if he was dismissing or blatantly ignoring racism. Later, Giovanni explained to me that he would go into the topic more, but was concerned about acquiring accurate information on the events that took place – he didn’t want to misrepresent what had happened. Although I personally thought that it would be possible to do the research and look into racism, discrimination, and double standards within the sport, I understood where Giovanni’s concern was coming from. 

By the end of my internship, I was surprised by how much I had learned. Not only did I learn new skills in video editing and digital storytelling, but I also learned more about Napoli-centric art and culture, collaboration in a creative space, and communicating across the world digitally. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the vast and numerous ways in which artistic expression can be created and the impacts it can leave. This has only fueled my desire to seek an international career, where I could collaborate with different artists and continue the lifelong journey that is global learning.