06 Sep Being an Intern Hero in Madrid, Spain
Theodore Whal from Metropolitan State University shares his experience as an intern hero in Madrid, Spain while completing an Entrepreneurship internship.
After my Papa died in March, I thought it would be a good time to get away and make him proud. I chose to intern in Madrid because I felt an internship in an English-speaking country would not be challenging enough and I had some previous knowledge on different Spanish speaking countries and the language from school. As an Intern Hero, my internship was my number one priority every day before, during and after Madrid. However, I can’t say the adventure travel mindset wasn’t hitting the priority list either; because it most definitely was. I knew that my internship was going to shape my career and help me dive into this idea of international business, and additionally, how I see a future for myself in the field.
Before deciding to commit to the Madrid program, I contacted a past Absolute Internship participant for feedback. He was from Mexico and did an internship in Shanghai through Absolute. Based on his experience, I decided to invest not only an important part of my bank account but a big chunk of my summer. My main priority was gaining work experience in an international environment and improving my resume afterwards. And for the record, after landing in Madrid, before I even met anyone, I was 100% confident that the next 30 days would go well- it was just a feeling.
After a quick jet-lagged, sleepless, social weekend, it was time for work day one. To be honest, walking to work on the first day I was nervous and doubting my Spanish speaking skills. I told myself, “Yo Ted you got this! This is the whole point of learning, don’t you know. Life is about challenging yourself.”
The language barrier was my biggest concern in how well I could meet my expectations. However, when I arrived, I could find my way to the office and the International Department. I started off by introducing myself to everyone explaining that I was from Minnesota, I am a twin, etc. One thing I found funny was I was constantly told that I didn’t sound American (from the USA). A popular comment was I sounded more Canadian. Granted I’ve only been to Canada for about 15 minutes in my life so I always wondered what that really meant. They also would say: “When I think of American I think of Texas or New York”-I would then reply with something “Minnesotan” saying we don’t sound like those folks, and then they would cock their heads in confusion. I was the first one in the office from America. All the other interns there were European. I really knew I was the different one because on my second day we were in contact with a famous actor from the U.S. and they were encouraging me to talk to some of my Americans to persuade him to be a bit more cooperative with our deal. I thought, “Oh of course, let me just pick up my Blackberry and make a few calls!” Haha!
About the work I was doing in Madrid, I believe I had a great entrepreneurship internship that taught me how to be autonomous in a foreign environment. As an Intern Hero, it is important to remember that you will need to readjust your expectations once you start your internship as it is easy to have unrealistic expectations before arriving. I worked for a great startup company that arranged a big business summit conference each year with over 13,000 attendees. The purpose of the summit is to create a forum for startups to compete for the most innovative or disruptive idea in the business world as well as showcase keynote speakers. Investors serve as judges and possible business partners in the future to seed these startups. Since I was in the International Department, my main job was to seek out already-established businesses that could attend and take part in panel discussions on topics ranging from Sustainability, Art, Culture, Smart Mobility, New Money, Fintech, Lifestyle and Fashion, Travel, and Healthcare. I spent my days researching and developing lists of possible candidates and engaging in online networking. During my month internship, I was able to secure one speaker which made my bosses very excited. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose who it was but, on the other hand, my office has confirmed participation of the CFO of Amazon, The Honest Company, Investors from Rocket Internet, Founder of Dentsu, current CEO of Apple, Steve Wozniak, and many more smaller business owners.
My internship in Madrid was an experience that I would not be able to get in the United States. It required me to truly break out of my comfort bubble and start learning in a new way. I met so many wonderful people from all around the globe that I will forever miss, and hoping this small world will bring us together again. Just in the group I met people from or associated with Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, England, Mexico, New Guinea, Zimbabwe, and different states around the US. In my office, my coworkers were from Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Spain. Although most people were Spanish, many of them knew many, if not most Latin languages. I thought it was interesting hearing small tidbits here and there about where they come from and how things are a bit different. One of my favorite things was when a group of us were out to dinner someone would say, for example, “can I have the napkin?” and then it would strike this excitement to learn and we would go around the table repeating that command in everyone’s first language, and even if a similar language was used before, we would still tell how that part of the country or region would say that.
My advice for future interns is just go with the flow because things won’t be perfect, and you’re going to be anxious… just embrace it. Never settle for coffee runs and put yourself out there to take on new tasks or projects. In the future, I see myself looking for new abroad opportunities. During Holiday, I want to do some volunteer work. I have been thinking of somewhere that could benefit some help in business from a group of business students and entrepreneurs that can provide different insight that hasn’t been introduced or heard of in different places around the world. I think this experience in Madrid will help me in communication, business, and in general just being more open-minded to what comes my way. I would recommend this program to gain a competitive edge when it comes to post-graduation resumes, and additionally, to give your brain the new knowledge it’s thirsting for. You’ll be surprised what you uncover.
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