Interview: A Look Into Summer Work and Study Abroad
Comment from Editor: In this post Kelly gives us great insight into internship abroad. This is something that a lot of college students have as an option so if you are one or if you know someone who is interested in an internship abroad – this is a definite good read! Enjoy!
Details, stories, and idiosyncrasies of another culture are fascinating. I had the privilege to interview (thank you, Skype!) my sister, Molly Spencer, student and athlete (women’s swimming) at Rollins College who is currently on a summer work and study abroad program in Barcelona.
July 7, 2014, 6pm in Sarasota, FL and midnight Barcelona, Spain.
Kelly Christiansen: Thank you for making the time to interview! Are you getting ready to go out?
Molly Spencer: Not tonight; we are going to the One Direction concert tomorrow night at the Barcelona Olympic Stadium.
KC: So fun! Alright I know it’s late there so lets get started…what was your decision making process for this internship?
MS: You were actually very beneficial in the process because I was looking at local possibilities and then you kind of put the idea in Mom’s head to branch out internationally. [KC studied aboard through AFS in Argentina for a summer in High School].
So that’s when we started researching and I found this program for a 10-week internship, which was the same cost as a 5-week trip to Spain with my school, I’ll take 10 weeks please! I applied to get credit through my school and signed up for the corresponding internship course that consists of some assignments I have to complete and submit weekly. The rest of the process was pretty standard as far as decisions go, I just kept following the logical path of steps to get the internship by filling out all of the proper forms, reading up on companies, participating in webinars to help prepare me for interviews and resume tweaking…all of which was included in the program. Really my only important decision was: am I up for having an amazing summer by traveling alone to Europe, working there, meeting new friends, gaining independence and more confidence, and checking things off of my bucket list? YES!
KC: What were any challenges in your international work and study abroad program?
MS: I haven’t really come across any challenges that I haven’t been able to handle here so I would say they are more like unanticipated events or surprises that I have come across. One was the complexity of the city; I did not realize how massive Barcelona was, and I was a little bit over confident in my ability to navigate it because I spent my summer of 2012 working in Chicago which I considered an expansive city. It took me longer than I’d like to admit (a full day of wandering), to realize that the street signs are on little marble-looking plaques on the sides of buildings as you round the corners. They blend in and there are a few other random signs that are more similar to the street signs we are used to in the US so I just thought they only marked important streets at first! The metro was also daunting, I took taxis when I got lost for the first few days, but I quickly realized that was going to become an expensive habit. So now that I finally have mastered the metro (which is not as hard as people told us, there are tons of signs down there). I can be lost or wandering and find any metro stop and know how to get back; its nice and it takes any panic of feeling lost out of my day-to-day experiences.
In my internship, I welcome challenges that will help me learn more, but with that and this entire trip comes the challenge of being able to adapt to whatever situation I find myself in. – Molly Spencer
I am usually pretty relaxed and I am confident in my street smarts so this hasn’t been too challenging for me; however, Barcelona is very well-known for robbery and pit-pocketing so being aware and on guard when in the crowds (which is every day) is vital and something I have had to adapt to and keep in mind.
I was prepared to make friends; I came alone on purpose (I could’ve done the Rollins trip and clung to feelings of familiarity), but I wanted to branch out and have this experience on my own which I highly recommend. I didn’t want to miss a season of swimming or a semester at school (we only have 4 years!) by studying abroad in the fall or spring, but during the summer I wasn’t going to miss anything; I’ll see everyone in a few months! The people I have met in the program and outside of it are all so diverse. It is really cool to me to see how different everyone is and how so many people who are so diverse in personality/nationality can get along just by having some similar interests and the same location coordinates. So whether it was a professional or a more fun setting, I have met people from all over because Barcelona attracts a lot of people from all parts of the world.
KC: Describe your classroom experience.
MS: The first two weeks of the program were the classroom study where we were learning from locals and speaking Spanish. Compared to the US, where you do a lot of listening and taking notes, here you have the opportunity to talk so much more. For example, we were given a stack of questions to ask and answer in small groups. Our professors are a lot stricter here about ONLY speaking in Spanish. When someone didn’t understand something, the teacher asked [in Spanish], “Who can explain this”? By finding a different way to explain it in Spanish, it gets you out of the zone of trying to translate everything.
MS: It’s mixed. They have a lot of different tourists here from all over Europe. The fashion is very causal and relaxed. For my job [event planning] there is no dress code. Lots of times my boss wears jeans and blouses. I normally wear dresses but that’s just me. Everyone thinks its hot here but there is no humidity so for me its nice. It’s high 70s to mid 80s. It hasn’t gotten to the really hot season yet.
KC: How is the celebrating different there versus in the US?
MS: The celebrating is definitely different! There were no fireworks for the fourth of July but our flag is a fashion statement here. People wear t-shirts and tanks with the American flag on them and jean shorts with stars and stripes. Locals were wishing my friends and I [wearing American flagged outfits] “Happy Independence Day” as we walked along the beach to a boat cruise.
KC: What about the clubs?
MS: We don’t go to the clubs until 1:30 or 2am and they don’t close until 6am so we get home at 7 in the morning. It’s amazing. When I get back to school and we go out at 11:30pm it’s going to feel so early!
KC: What is a typical day like at your internship?
MS: I do a lot of independent work, self-regulating, managing my own time. The mission of my company, Erasmus Barcelona with Shaz List, is to organize trips, events, and parties for students that are either free or affordable. I meet with the hostel managers and negotiate deals. That’s the one thing that is really cool here is that even though I am young, the professionals I call on treat me with respect and treat young adults like adults. Within my job I have had to visit 6 hostels in one day so that helped me successfully conquer the metro. In that respect I am always learning – whether I’m learning how to navigate the city or practicing Spanish when communicating with professionals so that I get our company’s message across.
KC: Favorite place you have been to so far?
MS: Barcelona in itself is amazing. We have been to clubs like Opium but for a bar, my favorite place is l’Ovella Negra [the black sheep] – it is a touristy bar and a fun atmosphere with everyone socializing.
For touristy attractions, I am biased [as a swimmer at Rollins College] but the Olympic Stadium with panoramic city view and pool is stunning.