Posts Tagged ‘internship’

My Second Internship: The Highs and Lows of Interning Abroad

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

In October of my sophomore year, I applied for a semester abroad at NYU Madrid. At the same time, I submitted an application for the for-credit internship program there. In November, I had a Skype interview with the director of EUSA, a separate company NYU hires to run many of its abroad internship programs. During this meeting, we discussed the fields of work I was interested in, and she evaluated my level of Spanish fluency.

When I arrived in Madrid, I received an email notifying me that I had an interview in two days with the European Foundation of Society and Education, an education policy think tank. The interview process was a whirlwind. A few days before, I was pickpocketed at a nightclub, and my phone was stolen. To make it to my interview without a cell phone, I had to purchase an alarm clock and memorize the route to the office. Luckily, the foundation was in the city center and not the outskirts of Madrid, but I still had to transfer trains and ask for directions on the street. 

My neighborhood in Madrid

I was nervous because the placement information made the office sound like a strict and formal environment. However, I was greeted by a charming old man. He reminded me of a kindly grandpa as he offered me a cup of coffee and complimented me on my success at NYU. His name was Miguel Ángel, the President of the foundation. It wasn’t even a real interview; we just worked out my schedule and got to know each other. 

Contrary to my preconceived assumptions, the foundation was casual and friendly. I ended up wearing jeans every day. It was also customary to say “hola” and “adiós” to every person individually when you arrived and left each day. I even remember a coworker apologizing profusely one afternoon because she hadn’t said hello to me when she came in. 

The work was a mix of administrative tasks, translating, social media management, and research analysis. I also went to a required weekly class at NYU Madrid for the students in the internship program, which involved various projects including a capstone research paper at the end of the semester. The most challenging part was reading quantitative research papers that the foundation published in Spanish, then writing my analysis (in Spanish) in a blog post. It seems I did okay, though, as Miguel Ángel submitted two of my articles to a Spanish newspaper.

My article on civic education, published in the Spanish newspaper Magisterio.

Every morning, Miguel Ángel would ask me about my classes, exams, and weekend trips. These conversations were almost always interesting, as Spanish people tend to speak about personal topics more openly in the office than we do in the U.S. For example, I mentioned once that I had been baptized as a Catholic, and Miguel Ángel was so excited to tell me all about the importance of that sacrament.

At the end of the semester, the foundation invited me back for a goodbye party with coffee and snacks. They even bought me a Zara bag as a thank-you gift. I was sad to leave. I had genuinely enjoyed my time in the office, with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, terrace for drinking coffee, and genial coworkers. However, when people ask if I recommend doing an internship during your semester abroad, the answer isn’t so simple.

Even now, after all of this reflecting, I still don’t know the answer. I am sure it looked impressive on my resume—job experience in a foreign country and in a foreign language. I could now prove my Spanish proficiency to future employers. I wrote about my work at the foundation in numerous cover letters and personal statements. For years, it has served as a unique experience that I can draw upon when promoting myself for a new job or academic program. More so, being a “working professional” in Madrid made me feel like I actually lived there, that I wasn’t just a typical study abroad student. 

At the same time, I don’t believe I was fully ready for the transition to life in Spain. I left my closest friends and family in New York to study in a program where I barely knew anyone. Then, I filled my schedule with classes and my for-credit, unpaid internship hours, so I didn’t often have time to connect with other students. For them, their time abroad was an “easy semester” where they slept in, went to clubs on weeknights, and traveled every weekend. Meanwhile, I was shut in my room during the week, trying to finish my homework in the little free time I had after work. I rarely succeeded—I constantly felt that I was behind in my classes. I still got to travel extensively, and I had the most lovely time jet-setting across Europe. But I was so tired, so anxious, and my support system was across the ocean. I wonder what would have happened if I had spent those 16 hours a week (plus transportation time) taking care of myself rather than working in an office without getting paid.

Interning as a student is a learning process. In Madrid, I learned that it is okay to take a step back from work when you need to. Being a student and being a human are jobs too. Despite my struggles, I do not regret my time at the foundation. I challenged myself, and growth always comes from facing challenges.


By Marisa Bianco

Marisa graduated from NYU in May 2020, summa cum laude, with degrees in International Relations and Spanish. She grew up in Nebraska, but she is currently living in Córdoba, Spain, where she works as an English teacher. You can find her eating tapas in the Spanish sun while likely stressing about finding her life’s purpose.

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Study Abroad, Get Hired: Virginia Yu, Copenhagen, Denmark

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

It’s hard to argue that there are many benefits to studying abroad, and for MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) graduate, Virginia Yu, it gave her a unique job opportunity as well.

“I’ve always loved traveling and learning about new cultures,” the 22-year-old says.

Yu attended the Danish Institute for Study abroad (DIS) in her spring semester of 2013. The school is located in Copenhagen, Denmark — “The land of LEGOs and awesome architecture!” she quips.

The tuition to study abroad was actually cheaper in Denmark than in Baltimore because Yu didn’t have to pay for extra on-campus fees. Her trip included classes, housing, two study tour trips, transportation in Copenhagen, and food expenses in the form of a prepaid grocery card. Yu also had grants and financial aid from MICA that carried on for her spring semester abroad, including a presidential scholarship and a MICA talent grant.

Virginia Yu smiles for the camera overlooking a typical Denmark scene.

Virginia Yu smiles for the camera overlooking a typical Denmark scene.

“[One way] I saved money was by not eating out and always asking for student discounts when I did eat out,” she says. “Copenhagen offered plenty of them because the majority of people were students.” Education is free in Denmark, so many people there are obtaining their masters. Because of this, many stores and cafes offer student discounts.

Yu ended up staying in Denmark for a total of eight months after she secured an internship with Seidenfaden Design Copenhagen for the summer.

“I felt really fortunate to have that opportunity because it allowed me to have more time in Denmark and to see the country more,” she says. “The best part, of course, was being able to work internationally and to compare the work environment to how things were like back home.”

She said that in Denmark there were better wages, more time off and less pressure — a very different working environment than one would find in Baltimore or New York City.

Brainstorming at work.

Brainstorming at work.

For college students, resume building is everything and having work experience abroad can really help someone stand out from other applicants.

“I gained a worldly knowledge, a chance to see the world, an opportunity to study overseas, which lead to working overseas, and lastly a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget,” Yu says. “It has helped me become the person I am today.

“You learn to redefine what home is and you learn to infuse another culture to call your own.”

And really, isn’t that what studying abroad is all about?

Copenhagen landscape.

Copenhagen landscape.

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You can check out Virginia Yu‘s work at http://missyudesigns.com/

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Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram:slevitz

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