I was lucky enough to be placed at Asia House. Asia House is the largest non-profit Pan-Asian company that seeks to build a greater link between Asia and the UK. They put on cultural, business, and political events that stress these things in Asia. My responsibility as a graphic design intern there was to create all of the marketing materials. Admittedly, at times it was very stressful but my job was pretty cool, plus I got to make some great friends in the process.
Having an internship was one of the best decisions I made about coming abroad. Looking back, I’m very glad I opted out of taking four classes that probably would have nothing to do with my major and would have been a breezy A. Some of the more obvious benefits of this internship include the experience and skill building. These are true; I may never be able to work in a foreign country again. I also enhanced my portfolio, learned the value of hard work, and became fluent in Adobe Creative Suite 5.
But besides that, the things to gain from an internship abroad are endless. I don’t think you truly know yourself until you’re thrown into a completely unfamiliar environment. That’s kind of what this was like. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to do at first, let alone how to do it. After a few days of familiarizing myself with the office and exchanging some pleasantries, the ball got rolling. I would be assigned several things at once from many different people. Of course, I would forget to write them down and what exactly this or that person wanted. A major responsibility was placed on my shoulders: the whole company’s “look”—in terms of marketing materials, at least. Through this I learned a lot about communication, how to ask questions and more importantly how to listen. I learned how to manage my time and independently meet deadlines. I learned how to accept criticism of my work and solve problems. These are things that one only learns when on an island, without a safely net, and on his or her own.
My experience extended beyond the office. By being thrown into an office full of (to me) foreign people, I was able to learn things about British culture that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I now perfectly understand English slang and how to dress appropriately, yet fashionably, for work. I can make tea in a traditional way and have become very fond of the after-work drink with co-workers. Speaking of which, my co-workers have become some of my best friends here. That is probably the largest take away: I will have people to keep in contact with that I met through work. These relationships have become very strong and very important to me, and probably wouldn’t have been made out side the office.
So if given the opportunity to have an internship abroad, I suggest it. Only so much can be learned in the classroom and why not gain some career experience while engaging in a culture in a totally different way? You may even get offered a job in the end.
Katie Buckleitner --London Mojo