Swinburne student Gloria Lai stepped out of her comfort zone and helped advance China’s climate action through Swinburne Abroad.
The Bachelor of Screen Production student enriched her degree with a virtual internship abroad at the world’s leading sustainable energy company, Sungrow.
Filmmaking is Gloria’s first passion and main area of study, but she is also very aware of the global climate crisis and wanted to educate herself on the subject through an internship.
Working for a global leader
From Swinburne Abroad, Gloria joined Sungrow, a global company spanning six continents specializing in the research, development and manufacture of renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and batteries.
This opportunity was made possible by Swinburne Abroad’s Climate Action Project, a virtual internship abroad where students work in groups to advise organizations on developing a climate action plan and help the company improve its performance. The program is supported by Swinburne partners Virtual Internships and Pomegranate Global.
Gloria said that after completing the internship earlier this year, she felt better prepared for the job as she had never been exposed to a professional work environment before.
“Working with senior officials is daunting but gives you a feeling that your work is valued and heard,” she said.
“They understand that the interns are students willing to learn, so they provided a sense of support throughout the internship.”
Leveraging Technology to Overcome Travel Barriers
While international travel has hampered most students’ plans to study abroad in recent years, Swinburne’s students have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by their technology-focused and globally connected university to complete virtual internships during the pandemic.
Stewart Collins, associate director of Swinburne Global Mobility, said virtual study abroad programs will likely be part of the university’s study abroad options long after the pandemic is over.
“When students were unable to leave the country due to Covid-19, we made virtual programs available to students through Swinburne Abroad,” Stewart said.
“Working globally, be it physically or virtually, is an excellent way for students to gain that experience, cross-cultural understanding, networking opportunities and learning a language.
“We believe there is a place for virtual programs in the long term. It’s great for sustainability and accessibility for students who can’t afford to travel, have family responsibilities, or have a disability.”
The virtual study abroad programs are offered during the summer and winter holidays, and students who have participated report that the experience has been worthwhile and say the opportunity has enhanced their employability and cultural intelligence.
“For example, it wasn’t just students doing an online internship with an organization in Asia,” Stewart said.
“They would teach cooking classes, do virtual catch-ups, do trivia and other activities to connect with people in another country as well.”
Zero-emission travel for Swinburne staff and students
As part of Swinburne’s Net Zero 2025 Pathway, all Swinburne university-related travel is now fully carbon neutral through REHO Travel, Swinburne’s Approved Travel Provider.
Purchasing carbon offsets through organizations like Arnhem Land Fire Abatement, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through their Savanna Cool Fire Burning project, offsets an estimated 17,000 tons of travel-related carbon emissions each year.
“We believe that studying abroad is a meaningful experience, so it’s important that students continue to travel,” Stewart said.
“But we can be more sustainable this way.
“We do a pre-departure briefing with the students that includes their impact on the environment.
“If a student goes to Germany for a semester, for example, we would talk to them about where they could take a bus or train instead of a taxi or a low-cost airline.”
Beyond the classroom
Gloria encourages all Swinburne students to do internships during their studies.
Whether you want to enrich learning in your primary area of study or pursue interests outside of a degree, she said it would help students seek new perspectives.
“It doesn’t matter what your background is,” she said.
“I’m studying Media and Film, but I’m learning about a world issue that’s very different from my normal course of study.
“It’s great to leverage other interests and passions because it’s a really good balance.”
Contact Swinburne Abroad for more information on study abroad opportunities.