Balancing academics and human connections at Parque Tecnológico

Stephanie Dutra shares her virtual global experience

Stephanie DutraName: Stephanie Dutra
Major: Aerospace engineering
Virtual Global Program: Campus B
City/Country: Brazil

Stephanie is a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. In the summer of 2020, she was one of the interns working with Campus B, which organized virtual internships for students from Brazil and the United States. Stephanie was paired with the Parque Tecnológico, working for a company that asked her to design a project proposal for the future of electric air taxis.

Read how Stephanie describes her virtual global experience.

How did your virtual internship advance your career goals?

I felt really grateful for the opportunity to work on a project and think about exactly what I wanted to get help with from my mentors. It’s very unique—usually as an intern you’re just going to be assigned random tasks that don’t help you professionally grow and learn a lot. However, with Campus B, I was in an internship position where I could do anything I wanted within urban mobility, which is what I was working on.

They have a company in Brazil that works on electric air taxis. Being able to dedicate a lot of my summer to researching that—what other people are doing and what I think cities should be doing—definitely affirmed that that is something I am very interested in. I feel like I found a niche that I am really interested in, and I’m thankful for that!

What did you like most about the experience?

I really liked working with students that I hadn’t worked with before—even the students I hadn’t met before from U of I. In my group there was also one student from Texas Tech and three students from the Brazilian university Insper. We made a community—we really tried our best to still call outside of what was required by our internship to talk about things. After the internship, we also tried to call just to talk about our experience and life in general. I feel like I formed connections with people, which was really nice, especially during COVID and over Zoom! That wasn’t something I had necessarily expected. In some ways, being confused about the whole thing together kind of built up those friendships and relationships with people who I would never have imagined meeting before.

How did your internship help you adapt to future challenges?

I believe that you always get new opportunities regardless of whether something bad or good is happening. I could have thought, "I hate COVID, I wish I could have had a normal summer," but at the same time, this wouldn’t have been an opportunity I would have had if it was a normal summer. So there were a lot of things that I realized I can learn from experiences like this.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

I feel like the thing I valued the most, regardless of whether or not I was enjoying something academically, were the interactions I had with other people. Especially during COVID, those interactions are really limited, and it’s harder to form those bonds with people. So I think if I had any advice, it would definitely be to focus even more time on trying to build those relationships with people. I do think that’s one of the most rewarding things. At the end of the day, in an internship you learn some things professionally that you can put on a resume, but I feel like what you really take away comes from how you interact with other people, what you learn from other people, and the connections you have with other people.