Hometown: Chicago, IL
School: Northern Central College
Major(s): Marketing & Spanish
Program: Micro-business Internship
Dates: August 2016 – December 2016
Tell us about the micro-business internship you were placed with
I interned for an NGO which helps to provide local women the support and resources necessary to establish themselves socially, politically, and economically. The CEO is a women’s rights activist and believes in advancement and equal opportunity for all women.
How did this particular NGO contribute to your experience?
It was definitely incredible to be able to help these women, especially because most of them are refugees from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador. These are women who literally started with such disadvantages, but worked their way up in order to build their own businesses. It was inspirational and empowering. It made this experience so much more worthwhile to be able to help these women achieve their dreams.
What kind of relevant experience did you gain from your internship?
Tons. I was really able to apply what I learned in my college marketing courses to help a local woman develop her business by brainstorming a catchy name for her bakery, and I even got to sketch a design for her logo! In addition, I was able to develop a marketing plan for the organization I was placed with. Though the CEO was running a successful organization, she knew little about the marketing aspect of business. Together, with another intern, we helped to develop the website so that it garnered more traffic, and essentially, more business, to her site. We did everything from the layout to the colors, and the content. I utilized my knowledge of “product, price and promotion” to help market her services.
In addition, can I just say I literally advanced my Spanish language skills to it’s current maximo nivel?! The language barrier was so tough, but after interning at a site where no one else spoke English, my brain adapted. I guess it’s like a flight or fight reaction, and my flight wasn’t for another 2 months, so that wasn’t even an option. I feel so much more confident in my ability to converse with Spanish speakers. You know what they say, practice makes perfect.
Did you encounter any challenges during your internship?
Again, the language barrier. I thought I was well prepared for a complete language immersion in the workplace, but constantly interacting with natives was rough. Eventually I caught on to the terminology used in this business, and it began to get a bit easier. It did get discouraging at times, but the support was always there. I’d come back to the institute after being at the office and ask questions. It was definitely one of those “…in theory, but in practice…” moments for me. And in practice, I needed practice. But I’m super grateful to have received it. It made me a stronger Spanish speaker.
Any super memorable moments during your time abroad?
I met the President of Costa Rica!
It was really random. We went to an event celebrating women entrepreneurs, and he was there. That’s really it. I walked up to him, introduced myself, told him about my studies and my internship experience at the organization, and that was it–all in Spanish. He was approachable; super nice. And it was really cool that I got to meet the President of Costa Rica. It’s crazy. I would probably never meet the President of the United States.
Why did you choose to intern in Costa Rica?
Well, one of the requirements for my Spanish program was to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country. The program with Maximo Nivel offered both the Spanish course and an internship placement at an affordable rate.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. Not only was I able to get direct experience in both my majors, but I was able to travel and explore a beautiful country I probably never would have visited. I lived in Quepos, Manuel Antonio for the first 2 months, lived in the capital, San Jose, the last two months, and in between I got to visit Alajuela and Nicaragua. It’s been an incredible journey.
Any advice for others looking to intern abroad?
Don’t give up. If you’re interning in a country which has a national language different from your native language, explore it, learn it, and practice with locals! It allows you to interact with an entirely new population, and being able to express yourself to that many more people is a sweet feeling. It also makes you more competitive in the job market.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I learned that most people are genuinely nice. They want to help, so get out of your comfort zone. You’ll never know until you ask.