Virtual Internship Stories: Julia Shimizu

September 15, 2020

Name: Julia Shimizu
School: Barnard College
Major: Political Science and Economics
Center: Rio de Janeiro
Internship: Columbia Brazil History Project, CGC Rio de Janeiro

Introduce yourself! What’s your name, major, and where are you interning this summer?

My name is Julia Shimizu. I am a sophomore at Barnard College. I’m currently in Brazil, which is where I’m from. My internship is at the Columbia Global Center in Rio. I study political science and economics.

Tell us a little bit about your work. What are some of your daily responsibilities?
I’m part of a group of student researchers. We’re conducting an archival oral history project on the history of Columbia University and Brazil, and we’re doing our best to use online archival sources. My responsibility ended up being to focus on the study of the women that participated in this relationship between Columbia and Brazil. I’ve been studying and doing some research on the women, either alumni, scholars, or Brazilian women that contributed to the relationship. Because I’m a Portuguese native speaker, I also ended up doing some archival research in Brazil and interviewing some professors here in Brazil. A large part of it is oral history, so interviews with scholars and alumni from both Columbia and Barnard.

How would you compare the experience of a virtual internship to a more traditional, in-person internship?
There are certain benefits that you kind of lose when it’s on line. On the more negative side, you don’t meet the people in-person, which is unfortunate, and I feel like that fosters a different kind of connection. But at the same time, I feel like I have more time to spend working because I don’t have to commute. I just feel like you have more time to work, and it’s very comfortable especially now because of the pandemic. I just feel safer. The online internship is just perfect for that, and I feel like in different times, maybe it wouldn’t be the same; but because of the world we live in now, an online internship seems to make most sense.

What is a specific project on which you’ve worked that was especially engaging or rewarding?
It was a great pleasure to interview former Barnard president Judith Schapiro. It was amazing, honestly. First of all, because I’m a Barnard student, so that’s always amazing. But truly to just talk to her about Brazil, which is my home country, and see how my experience back at home kind of drew me to Barnard in a way. Even though this project is research, it’s very personal in a way. It’s just kind of all about both of my communities. It’s both the Brazilian and the Columbia community, and I love both of them. It’s really interesting to do research on that. Also, I didn’t get to interview her, but there’s a Barnard alumni, and she was a student that came from Brazil from the same city I’m from, São Paulo. She went to the United States to study. She ended up studying math at Barnard, but afterward she got involved in the Civil Rights movement, and she became a professor but also a social activist. It is very inspiring to just know about that, and now I get to tell my friends something that was a little bit hidden in Barnard’s history, and now we get to know her. 

Do you have any tips for future virtual interns?
There’s like the boring advice, which is to try to keep a routine because since it’s online, you don’t have the working space, and you need to have some sort of routine to get your mind set on that internship. But that’s just some boring practical advice. My other advice would be to make sure you’re organized and take advantage of your time. If you’re at home or wherever you are being online, get the work done with enough time, so you can do other things.