Interning abroad was not my first choice. Before the pandemic struck, I dreamed of studying abroad in Spain. I had seen pictures of the Universidad de Deusto, in all its neoclassical glory seated by the sparkling estuary that divides Bilbao neatly in half. My mind conjured images of taking notes in lecture halls with vaulted ceilings, interacting with the quirky yet fashionable student populace, and roaming the nearby city streets.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere: Covid. My hopes of studying abroad suffocated within the dusty, cramped walls of my house during those interminable months of lockdown.
Without me noticing it, two years of my life flew by. Suddenly, I had not only survived the first brutal waves of the pandemic, but I was also graduating from college. With graduation came the immediate onset of Real Life, ready to bludgeon me over the head with the pressures of finding a non-retail job and the crushing realization that I had squandered the past two years. I resigned myself to the fact that I would begin my adulthood immediately and without any fanfare. Graduation, at first, was not a celebration of my achievements but more akin to a funeral of what could have been.
My mindset started to change when I was informed that I could, in fact, still go abroad post-grad. Since the pandemic had calmed down, the program was restarting and there was still time for me to apply. One of the options was a Business Internship Program, where I would be supervised by the Universidad de Deusto, and be working with a local company. It was honestly the best of both worlds: I could begin my life as an adult, gaining valuable experience in a real workplace while also learning valuable skills. I would be graduated by the time I went over, so I saw no point in signing up for classes. The skills I needed to develop could not be taught in a lecture; I needed to learn them through a hands-on experience.
In May, I travelled alone to Bilbao. The trip over was a nightmare, but I adjusted quickly once I finally got there. Before arriving, my internship description was incredibly vague. The only information I received was the company’s legal title and that I would work with international students. This, of course, did nothing to lessen my anxiety before going getting on the pan. All I could do was immerse myself in Spanish and brace myself for whatever the next two months would bring.
Several weeks later, I can finally tell you what I actually do. I intern at Happy Erasmus Bilbao, which is essentially a travel agency and event organizer for Erasmus students. For those unaware of what Erasmus is, like I was, it is a scholarship given to students within the European Union that allows them to study in any country within any nation belonging to the EU. While the company’s title implies that only Erasmus students can join, I am pretty sure that the membership is open to any international, or national, student. At its core, the company aims to connect both international and local students with each other while providing opportunities to explore Spain. The company frequently hosts parties, hikes, and trips within Spain and abroad.
My job has primarily focused on translating blog posts advertising these trips, as well as creating the content itself. Initially, I only translated Spanish blog posts to English. Now, my work includes researching the future trip locations and creating blog posts describing the area in a way that would appeal to college students. It has given me a lot of creative freedom, as well as extensive practice with Spanish. My Spanish has significantly improved since starting my internship, as I am required to speak it with my bosses most of the time.
I have also met people from across Europe. It has been an incredible experience just being able to interact with them and share different aspects of their culture. One of the more interesting things I have learned is the similarities and differences between American culture and the different cultures of Europe. For example, Northern Europe and American social customs are quite similar.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work abroad. Not only have I gained invaluable workplace skills, but I have also come into my own socially. I have grown so much during the past two months that I almost feel like a different person than when I left. Even though it wasn’t originally what I had planned, I would not change my experience at all.