Getting back to exchanging! How IAESTE members are facing the new normal

Since that time we have witnessed the global spread of the Coronavirus and most of us have been doing our work and academic activities in a remote way where possible. Countries and regions reacted differently to the situation and in the Northern Hemisphere, the effectiveness of measures taken by governments in this region places us now in a new reality - we can go out again, continue to work remotely or incorporate some visits to the office. This is the new scenario in which we are all invited to cooperate by embodying the necessary sanitary rules:  the use of masks in public and closed places and keeping social distance. 

But, in this new scenario, how are mobility programmes working? Are we expecting new students to adjust or continue with traditional mobility? How about travel bans, the closure of borders? How about the lack of commercial flights?  Well, of course, this is not happening as we expected or we were used to before. In fact, this new reality has meant that IAESTE Committees have had to review and analyse the strategy they have to apply in order to ensure that internships can happen in the safest way for future interns. And the key to success is to become informed from official sources and communication!

IAESTE is one of the organisations providing international experience to thousands of students every year. Thus, during summer, most of the internship placements are filled with talented students in the 87 countries where we are present. We know that this summer is a  new challenge and we will face a different reality, nevertheless, we are happy to see that at least in some regions students are having the chance to take their career development to the next level.  Having said that, the good news is that since the middle of June the EU started to open its borders again in the Schengen area and as a result, many students started travelling in order to undertake their international experience. 

How are countries preparing to receive students? Firstly, as I said, confirming information from official sources is vital. Therefore, to double-check restrictions governments have established in their territories. Then, they start with the process of preparing for students to arrive. This is a complex and coordinated process in which members of IAESTE take care of students from the moment they need guidance to get their visa and work permit (in the cases where they are required) to preparing for arrival and pick-up, through to taking the intern to their first day at work and ensuring that cultural activities are going to enrich the experience of the students. Moreover, communication is crucial and makes the interns feel that they are part of a nice multicultural group of people. IAESTE members create such a positive experience that most of our interns feel they belong to a huge worldwide family, and we love that! 

IAESTE members work closely with employers to be 100% sure that all necessary COVID-safe measures are taken and respected. There are new protocols set to secure people's health and interns are ready to follow them. 

Switzerland is one of the countries which is leading on opening up and returning to some kind of new normal. “Our Swiss employers showed a lot of patience and great flexibility during the past weeks and months. Keeping in mind these very special circumstances, not knowing when borders will open up again or visa applications can be handled in. But of course, they have been looking forward to receiving their interns, as they count on the support and enjoy working with the young professionals coming from abroad.
Therefore, we are more than happy that already during July, as soon as travelling within Europe was possible again, we could welcome six students here in Switzerland, coming from countries such as Greece, Austria, Sweden or Spain. Many other placements were able to be postponed to a later starting date and we thank our exchange partners and everyone else involved for the great cooperation, making these internships finally possible” -  says Sabine Lenz, the National Secretary of IAESTE Switzerland.

For some of our members receiving students will have to wait a little longer. In Europe, physical mobility is already happening, we know some countries are expecting to receive students from September onwards. While in Latin America, Asia and Africa, this can start even later this year, or like in the case of the United States, the programme has been pushed to next year because of government restrictions. Whatever the case, IAESTE members are adapting - for the new reality and to take care of students and employers as we have always done. 

We strongly believe that regular, honest communication is the key to success and we have a close relationship with the students interested in doing an internship through IAESTE. So, if you are interested in experiencing IAESTE as an employer or trainee, contact IAESTE in your country. Students, if it is not possible currently for you to travel around, contact them anyway! Maybe you can be part of the IAESTE Remote Internships programme, which we successfully launched in May. 

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