Madison Imoto, a Media Science major and French minor (COM ‘22), has been interning remotely this semester for a company called Connecting Food that focuses on providing transparency in the food industry.
While remote internships aren’t super uncommon nowadays given the pandemic, and students have received opportunities to work for companies outside of their city or even state, Madison’s remote internship is all the way across the Atlantic in Paris, France. She shares how she navigates a new industry, a shift in languages and a different work environment during her internship abroad – while not being abroad.
Daniela Tellechea: First, how did you even hear about the opportunity?
Madison Imoto: I was actually supposed to study abroad this year in Paris, but obviously, that didn’t happen. So, this semester, BU Study Abroad approached us with the opportunity to intern with a company in Paris. I got this internship through EUSA, a European company that helps students find internships in Europe and we had to do an interview with a company just to see if it would be a good fit. I’ve been interning here since February!
Are you a native French speaker?
No, I started learning French in high school. Then, during my junior year in high school, I studied abroad in France for a year and I wanted to continue improving my French and continue learning about the culture. So, I decided to pursue a minor once I got to BU.
What drew you to this specific internship?
When we met with EUSA for the first time, we talked about our experience and what we want to do at our internship but also what kind of fields we want to work in. I said that I was interested in working at a company that’s relevant to the environment and also technology. I hadn’t heard of Connecting Food before this, but they’re a very well-known company in Europe. They’re like the number one blockchain technology for the food sector company in Europe and I didn’t even know what a blockchain was before this.
Can you explain what a blockchain is and what Connecting Food is?
Basically, Connecting Food’s product is a blockchain platform that pretty much every actor in the food supply chain, like farmers, milling companies and cooperatives, can use, and do use, in Europe to track and trace their products, whether that be fresh produce, meats, even packaged goods. The whole purpose is to make consumers aware of where their food is coming from, when it’s coming, and how it’s made, especially since the demand for food transparency in Europe has grown a lot over the last few years. One part of Connecting Food’s product is that on packaged goods, or things you can buy at a grocery store, there can be a QR code that consumers can scan to see the entire journey of their food that they buy.
Connecting Food is also trying to expand to the U.S. where that consumer demand for transparency has also been increasing.
That’s awesome! Were you interested in the food industry at all before?
I love food, like most people do. But besides that, it wasn’t that deep of a passion for me. Working in environmental sustainability and technology was something that I’ve considered prior to this, whereas working in the food industry in this sense had not really crossed my mind until I learned about Connecting Food. It has really solidified my passion for wanting to work in this field, though. It’s very innovative and constantly changing and something that can improve lives.
So, what does a day at Connecting Food look like?
My biggest project is this net linking project since Connecting Food is trying to expand to the U.S. market. So, for most of my internship, I’ve been identifying relevant agri-food players in the U.S. and getting in contact with them to set up meetings with the company and find collaboration and partnership opportunities. Then, I would actually sit in on the meeting with my supervisor and the other company. Last week, I actually presented the pitch deck on behalf of Connecting Food to the U.S. company. I was really surprised that my supervisor would let me do that, because here in the U.S., we interns don’t usually have big responsibilities like that.
Besides that, I do a lot more traditional PR tasks like creating and managing potential media outlets in the U.S. for when we have press releases or other stuff to pitch. I’ve also been drafting press releases for their upcoming transparency project with a U.S. brand and I do some translation and editing for their previous press releases or customer testimonials. The last project I’m working on is their Instagram campaign where I translate posts and edit the graphics from the French account to English for the company’s international Instagram account.
Going back to the point you mentioned about being an intern in the U.S. and an intern abroad, is there a big difference between working for a company abroad and a U.S. company?
The six-hour time difference is a little difficult because my supervisor’s not always the most accessible in the sense that I can’t always ask her for help or something right away. When I first started my internship, it was hard, but once I started to get the hang of things, she got comfortable with me working by myself and having my own tasks where I didn’t need to be supervised as much. There’s a mutual level of understanding and trust between us. Right now, we just check in maybe once or twice a week during my shifts, and that’s pretty much it, besides texting on WhatsApp or emails.
The main difference is how much responsibility and trust the company gives me in regards to presenting Connecting Food at meetings for potential clients or partnerships. It’s a much more hands-off approach. I know for my U.S. jobs that are remote now, it’s a lot more hands-on, like meetings with our supervisor during each shift. Connecting Food is a very different work style than what I’ve been used to, but not in a bad way. I’ve liked having the ability to work on things at my own pace, but also getting the tasks done by a certain deadline without having someone always checking in on everything.
How have your U.S. roles as a BU orientation program coordinator and a social media writer for The COMmunicator prepared you for this internship?
The COMmunicator really helped my communication skills in the sense that with social media writing, you have to summarize those articles to a paragraph or less.
With orientation, since it went remote last summer, pretty much all interactions with my co-workers and supervisors are via email, or Microsoft Teams or texting. I think that has really helped me practice my communication in a remote setting, knowing that I have to be more explicit about what I’m trying to say or give more detail because there’s a lot of things that get lost. Human interaction and facial expressions and feelings, just the vibes that you get from someone – there’s a lot of that humanity lost. So, I think my experiences there have really helped me improve those skills in a virtual setting.
Would you recommend a remote abroad internship experience to other students?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a very different feel than my previous work experiences here in the U.S. and it’s a great way to learn more about a different culture. Or if someone is trying to improve language skills, it’s also a great way to do that.
Daniela Tellechea, Staff Writer
Hailing from Chico, a small town in northern California, Daniela Tellechea is a senior in the College of Communication at Boston University studying public relations and minoring in Spanish. Daniela is passionate about storytelling and music and is currently interning at BCW Global and the Recording Academy. In her spare time, Daniela enjoys finding new music artists, reading and (safely) hanging out with friends.