Working abroad: Finding your place in a global internship

Lauren Glasby/File

When I arrived for my interview abroad in June of last year, I was more than a little nervous.

Sure, this was all part of a program. I was lucky enough to join Berkeley’s Global Internships program, which meant the organization found my internship for me, but there was still a chance that I could screw this up.

I arrived at my interview in Dublin with the full expectation that I would be busy making tea for my superiors and found that this was not the case at all.

My boss, the head of publications, was incredibly sweet and wanted to know if there was any way I could be more comfortable at work. Because I was interning and not working for him, he recognized the value of finding a way for me to be gaining work experience and not to be set to only photocopying and making coffee for the rest of the office.

I can’t even begin to express how grateful I was for that, even when it meant that my first week included being handed a full roughly 70-page manuscript to give a “pass over” with a red pen and a handy-dandy chart to show me the symbols I would use whenever I found anything that needed listing, along with another handout that gave me the rundown of their printing “house style.” What does this look like? Well, if I was writing this article for them, or much of Ireland/the U.K., I would have said ‘house style’ in single quotes instead of double, and the list only goes on from there.

Yes, we had tea breaks (usually at 11 a.m.), but we could all pop down to the canteen and make our own tea or coffee and chat for 10 or so minutes together — it was a nice and very welcoming environment. I met a couple of other interns, including a student from the University of Florida who was working in a call center inside of the building I was working. He spent much of the summer trying to convince me to watch “Game of Thrones” (and someday … maybe … someday I’ll watch it).

That was the other thing about being abroad: You could be the least patriotic person on the planet and find yourself in the most welcoming office, but you still would end up reaching out whenever you find someone from close to home.

Whenever I heard an accent that sounded like it could be American, I jumped at it. “What state are you from?” I asked one of the nice men from marketing. “Canada,” he told me, and I had to laugh.

I got to have my desk in the same room as the main editors toward the end of my internship, and we all could work together and look at one another’s work and joke together. I was even invited to the company barbecue before I left. I have to say that I was already resenting leaving, especially after the company threw me a farewell party. It was really hard to leave after that. My farewell banner is hanging in my dorm right now.

But I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all internships are equal. I knew of another student who was glued to the copy machine at his office, and another who was answering phone calls all day. Yet even these more mundane internships have the potential to help these students grow: A lot of the time, it’s not only the work environment — it’s what you make of it.

Contact Lauren West at [email protected].