Posts Tagged ‘studying abroad’

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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College Savings: How to Haggle Your Way to the Best Souvenirs

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

I have a confession to make. . . . Are you listening? Good. Well, here goes…

I’m a packrat.

I can’t help it. Wherever I go I like to take mementoes with me. My best friend calls me the Souvenir Kleptomaniac. If there’s a free gift or college discounts to be had, I’m there. At restaurants I save the little business cards and menus and circle what I ate. I keep receipts from purchases in other countries just because there’s a different language on them.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia and remembering my trip in every detail possible is important to me. Although people aren’t generally this extreme, the act of bringing home a keepsake is usually one that people follow. The most important thing about souvenir shopping is getting the most for your money without going bankrupt.

As discussed earlier, sometimes it’s hard to pack everything you need in one suitcase. However, make sure you leave some extra space in it so you have room to bring things back.  You don’t want to have to buy an extra piece of luggage to fit everything you want to bring home. Extra luggage means more plane space, means more money out of your pocket.

Be wary of scams.
If you’re going to a country that makes a lot of money off of tourism chances are the people there are waiting for you: and they’re prepared. They want your business and they want you to spend your money on keychains and postcards and bottle openers with funny sayings on them. Don’t feel the need to do your entire souvenir shopping in one day at the same place.

My friend bought a hat from a vendor in China for 25¥ ($5!) that ripped only seconds after purchasing it.

My friend bought a hat from a vendor in China for 25¥ ($5!) that ripped only seconds after purchasing it.

Do not buy souvenirs at the airport.
Those T-shirts that say I HEART [insert country’s name here] aren’t going anywhere. You will see them wherever you go throughout the country, and will probably get a better deal on them in other stores than in the first one you see.

Learn to haggle.
And don’t be ashamed of doing it! The locals want your money, and chances are the initial price they are asking for that miniature sculpture of that famous landmark is a lot higher than they expect you to pay. Haggle with vendors for a better deal. If you are uncomfortable with the asking price—walk away! You’re not obligated to buy anything, and many times walking away will encourage vendors to immediately drop their asking price.

We bought cute panda hats in China that we found a week later for half the price.

We bought cute panda hats in China that we found a week later for half the price.

Save your money for one priceless gift for yourself.
That’s not to say don’t buy yourself anything else the whole trip. However, study abroad trips leave lasting impressions. Having one precious item to take home from your adventure will mean a lot to you in years to come.

 

My favorite purchase of the trip: a Jade necklace. It's very special and something I will treasure forever.

My favorite purchase of the trip: a Jade necklace. It’s very special and something I will treasure forever.

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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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College Savings and Saving Space in Your Suitcase: What to Pack When Studying Abroad

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

When I fantasize about traveling it’s always the same: one neatly packed backpack with just the essentials. Unfortunately, I am not a light packer and so this is never the case. When it comes to studying abroad you want to make sure you’re properly prepared for whatever you may encounter on your trip. It’s never a good idea to assume that a foreign country has exactly what you’re looking for. Try to find college discounts for certain items before your trip and you can save yourself a lot of trouble once you’re there. So what if you’re labeled the “mom” of your trip? Being prepared is never a bad thing—and chances are your new friends will thank you.

Before your trip it’s important to at least attempt to learn the language of the country, or at least learn some key phrases. Rosetta Stone is a great option, but for those of us on a budget there are free smartphone apps readily available. Mindsnacks is a really helpful app I found before my trip to China that allowed me to start learning the language through a series of fun interactive games. If you upgrade to the full version for $5, you’ll get access to 1000 words and phrases, 9 unique games, and 50 lessons to master. This app is available in many different languages and the upgrade is definitely worth the money!

Mindsnacks is a free app that can be used to learn new languages.

Mindsnacks is a free app that can be used to learn new languages.

Do some research about the weather you’ll experience during the months you’ll be there and pack your clothes accordingly. You don’t want to be the one wearing sweaters in the heat or shorts in the snow. Make sure you have a solid stock of any medicines or vitamins you may take every day. Regular toiletries are an essential and it’s always handy to buy Tide-To-Go, packets of Downy or any other fabric soap just in case you need to do a wash at a moment’s notice.

downy.1load.packet.travel

tidetogopen

Sometimes laundry gets expensive in a foreign country.

 

Check to see what banks are available in the country you’re going to. Many countries often have branches that are linked with Bank of America so if you don’t have an account, open one up. It’s free and you won’t have to pay fees every time you grab some cash from the ATMs. The China Construction Bank, found all over China, doesn’t charge any fees as long as you have a BoA card. You can easily close your BoA account once returning to America.

Other important items are charger adapters for your specific country of origin. The outlets in America are not the same in every country and you do not want to be that person with the hair straightener exploding in your hair!

Also, to stay in touch with family and friends during your trip, set up a Gmail, Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp accounts. These are free ways to connect with your loved ones through email, phone calls, video and text messaging all through WiFi. You don’t want mom to get a $356 dollar phone bill because you accidentally used your data while roaming, do you?

My group connects to the WiFi in our hotel in Hong Kong and immediately engross themselves in social media.

My group connects to the WiFi in our hotel in Hong Kong and immediately engross themselves in social media.

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

Follow the Campus Clipper on Twitter and Like us on Facebook!

Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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