At Duolingo, we know the importance of creating a strong community and workplace culture for our full-time Duos and our interns! That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time developing not one, but two programs for our summer intern classes.
The Duolingo Thrive Program is a 10-week internship aimed at technical and professional development opportunities to second-year students from historically underrepresented communities in tech, while the Graduating Internship fully integrates interns into a team and personally matches them with an “intern host”. Both internships guide interns through real projects that affect the company, and our learners! (Read more about our award winning internships!)
Pedro, a Computer Science student at Brown University, has joined Duolingo for two different intern experiences, Duolingo’s Thrive Internship and the Graduating Intern Program—so he has a unique perspective! Read on to hear from Pedro about his two summers spent with Duolingo.
What has been your favorite part of your internship experience?
Most interns would be satisfied if they enjoyed what they worked on and felt that they learned many things throughout the internship. While my time here at Duolingo has certainly been valuable for my professional development, my favorite part of my internship has been the social experience and the new friendships I’ve formed. The interns are a tight knit group, and we have many events where we can have fun outside of work, both planned by Duolingo and ourselves.
Some of my favorite memories come from experiences such as our 10th Duoversary party, National Intern Week festivities, and our beach road trip. Despite only knowing them for a summer, there are people here that I would call some of my closest friends, and my internship experience would have been incomplete without them.
Why did you choose Duolingo—and what made you want to return for a second time?
Language learning is a strong personal goal for me because it’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I wasn’t able to speak English until I was 3 years old, and I never developed fluency in my parents’ native language of Portuguese. Whenever I go to visit family in Brazil, it’s difficult to communicate, and my parents have to assist me whenever I want to express more complex thoughts. Becoming fluent in my family’s language is something I really care about, and working at a company whose mission aligns perfectly with my goals was an opportunity I had to take.
Furthermore, I knew I didn’t want to work at a large company with a strenuous work culture and where individual impact is hard to measure. Duolingo is a place that emphasizes work-life balance and allows me to make meaningful contributions. I had a great experience my first summer here as a remote Thrive intern, and I knew it would have been even better had it been in person, which is why I wanted to come back as a graduating intern in Pittsburgh.
What aspects of your Thrive Internship prepared you for your Graduating Internship?
My Thrive project focused on Duolingo’s web app, while my Graduating project focused on Android, so platform-wise, I started from scratch during both internships. However, Thrive helped me learn the non-programming aspects of software engineering, such as code review, working concurrently on the same codebase with my peers, and openly communicating with my host. I also learned a bunch about the culture at Duolingo and how teams set and accomplish their goals for each quarter. All these things made me feel very comfortable and quite at home when I came back for my Graduating internship.
What have been the main differences in a virtual vs IRL internship for you (working with the same company)?
Working in person has been so much better in every way. When I was virtual, asking for help involved Slacking someone, waiting for a response, and setting up a Zoom meeting before I could finally start asking questions. In person, I can simply lean over to my host and ask whatever’s on my mind, which is a lot more convenient and productive.
Socially, it was difficult to engage with other Duos while remote, but IRL, there are so many ways to meet other people, from catered lunch, to clubs, to Duolingo-hosted events. There’s also a new city to explore and learn about, and the opportunity to experience what it’s like to have your own living space. I’m very glad I got to be in person this year — it was an entirely new and fulfilling experience!
What surprised you most about the Duolingo culture?
I couldn’t believe how well-treated we are as Duos! From the respect I get from my host to all the events that Duolingo plans, I feel less like a cog in the wheel and more like an individual whose work and presence is appreciated. The culture feels intentional and authentic, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on during your Duolingo internships?
I enjoyed my Thrive project a lot. We created a PvP (player versus player) mode where learners can join a lobby and compete against each other by answering language questions. The game is similar to Kahoot in that each player gains more points when they answer quickly. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day in production, but it was great to work on such a cool concept!
What’s the best advice you received from a full-time Duo while interning?
If you’re stuck on a task for more than 30 minutes, ask for help! I’m somebody who wants to solve problems on their own, and will bang my head at something for hours until I get it. However, Duos are very willing to assist, and it’s often a better use of time to ask for help from somebody with more knowledge and experience. There have been many times this summer where I was confused about something only for it to get cleared up in a few minutes by simply talking to a full-timer, so I try my best now to balance finishing tasks on my own and asking for help.
Pick your ideal study buddy: Oscar (brings good snacks) or Bea (smartest one in class)
I already know I’m gonna start at the last minute, so I’ll have to rely on Bea to carry me 💪