When I signed up for an internship through Champlain Abroad Dublin, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. All I knew was that with whatever placement I was given, I would have a lot to learn. My experience interning abroad in a foreign city was guaranteed to be unlike any other position I had held in the States, and that prospect alone was about as exciting as it was terrifying. Still, I wanted to try.
Two weeks before my arrival in August, I learned that my placement would be with the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS). It seemed like an odd fit at first, placing a Professional Writing major in a nonprofit setting that didn’t exactly seem to do a lot of writing; but I wasn’t about to back out of the opportunity. After all, ICOS is there to help people, and if they were going to teach me how to help other international students like myself through my writing, who was I to say no?
It’s been four months now, and I can’t even begin to express what working for ICOS has done for me. A seeming mismatch at first, I now realize that this organization was the best possible fit for my writing and for myself. We needed each other, and as the semester is drawing to a close I feel happy to say that I’ve grown in ways I hadn’t previously imagined possible. I was right when I said that I would have a lot to learn, but I never could have imagined just what it was that that notion implied.
I feel as though I have done absolutely everything an intern could hope for. Coffee-and-copy-runs? Absolutely out of the question. ICOS had me involved from day one. I prepared orientation packets and met Irish Aid Fellowship students from countries like Vietnam, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. I designed brochures, infographics, and website content. I sat in on board meetings and helped to plan functions. The most important jobs of all, though? Those were the communication-based ones.
Phone calls and e-mails. Now, I know what you’re thinking; because these ideas stand about one step up from coffee-and-copy-runs in most minds. But these jobs taught me possibly the most important skills I could have as a writer and as a student. They taught me to be patient and well researched, where to look for answers amidst piles of false information.
How do you get a visa? Where do you find scholarships? Are certain schools more reputable than others? What about refunds? Each day I was interacting with a global society. Students were older and younger than me. They spoke with broken English or heavy accents. They were confused and frustrated and sometimes even scared. But they all wanted the same thing I wanted: a better education through studying abroad. Every day of work at ICOS was about bridging cultural gaps. Depending on the nationality, a lot of people never expected a woman to be answering their immigration queries; and none of them would have ever anticipated an American answering the line at an Irish organization. I had a lot to learn about how I was perceived as much as I perceived these people. It fostered a kind of cultural intelligence, a way to see the world.
My internship opened my eyes, and that’s certainly something that never goes away. I will always be a better student, a better employee, for the time I spent helping others in Ireland, and that’s absolutely amazing. By touching different parts of the world, I was in contact with the whole globe.
And how freakin’ awesome is that?
Editor’s Note. Champlain Abroad has had several student interns placed with ICOS in the past. You can read more about Karisa Desjardins’ intern experience here.
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