Looking to gain international experience, learn practical skills, and broaden your networks? Fabian Obermeir, International Business and Communication undergraduate, shares how he got involved with a Marketing internship in Cape Town, South Africa, to do exactly tha (and more!) Read on to learn more about the experience and how you could access the same opportunities!
Hi Fabian, it’s nice to meet you! What made you decide to participate in an internship abroad?
I wanted to acquire a solid understanding of international work experience along with meeting interesting people who share a different cultural background. In addition to this, I’m quite interested in learning how business is conducted in South Africa compared to Germany and I wanted to brush up on my English language skills - more specifically in Business English. These skills would improve my chances of getting hired in this field, hence my decision to participate in the Marketing internship in South Africa.
What was it like to arrive, get started, and begin the internship in South Africa?
When I arrived, I expected my placement to be exciting, but also challenging. One part of me was looking forward to learning new skills and getting to know my colleagues. The other part was feeling anxious that I would not meet my co-workers´ expectations, since I hadn’t had work experience in an office yet. In fact, the beginning of the internship proved to be quite challenging because I had to take on so many new tasks. However, everyone was very supportive and encouraging at my host organization and they made me feel like a part of the team from Day One.
Once you got settled in, what kind of tasks did your Marketing internship involve?
As a Sales & Marketing Intern, I was involved with numerous improvement projects associated with local and international sales/marketing at my host organization. My tasks involved sales and marketing-related tasks (B2C / B2B), including creating and enhancing the social media posts, landing pages, newsletters, blog articles, curating new audiences for specific products, brand development and improvement and building the e-commerce website.
I learned how to create and automate marketing-related content using different software programs, such as Buffer, Canva, WooCommerce, WordPress, Mailchimp, and so on.
I also dealt with SEO optimization for the first time, which is important because Google improves a website’s ranking when the algorithm is fed with valuable content and the right keywords. I picked up some useful skills that I can apply to a business-related career within an international team in Germany or abroad!
What kind of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
At the beginning of my internship, I was a bit overwhelmed because there were many new, challenging tasks that seemed daunting. I was confronted with a new work environment and new colleagues. However, I was able to deal with the pressure by reassuring myself that feeling stressed is nothing unusual when facing unexplored territory.
The more tasks I completed successfully on time, the more confidence I gained in dealing with pressure. I was glad that I decided early in the internship to openly share my initial concerns about meeting the expectations with my supervisor. He told me to stop worrying too much and not put myself under too much pressure! Honest communication with my superiors and colleagues were always the key to making things work.
Do you have a favorite memory or learning outcome from the internship?
It was publishing my first blog post during the first week of my internship! My supervisor commended me and said that, “The article looks great, you can go ahead and publish it.” That compliment and validation was assuring and priceless. Shortly after the blog post, I created my first newsletter campaign using Mailchimp - another marketing tool I had learnt from scratch.
You mentioned that one of your motivations for this program was to learn how business is conducted in South Africa compared to Germany and brush up on English language skills - what was it like interning in another country?
I was in a team with a mixed cultural background and saw multiculturalism being completely supported as everyone treated each other with mutual respect and professionalism. Moreover, we frequently exchanged information about cultural differences between South Africa and our home countries.
I also attended my Xhosa classes and learnt that members of this ethnic group have three names and I discovered that the highest form of respect and courtesy is shown to others by addressing them by their clan name at gatherings.
I found that I really enjoyed the international experience with an international company, so much so that I would be willing to go abroad again as an expat if the opportunity arose. Through my internship abroad, I was able to improve my communication skills in a business context as well as my intercultural skills by working with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds. I can now apply my newly acquired skills directly to any sales or marketing position and add value to any company that I will work for.
Did you see a growth and evolution of your skills over the course of the internship?
Yes! Learning to adapt well to the new culture and work environment, successfully completing assigned tasks on time, improving on my time management skills and learning how to use various marketing-related tools were my biggest achievements during the internship.
On top of that, I found it very gratifying to be able to generate sales for my host organization through my newsletter campaigns. These are all successes for me, as they represent the milestones that contributed to the overall goals I set for myself before I started the internship.
From here, I would like to improve my skills in intercultural communication and time management, as well as acquire new marketing-related skills and practical knowledge that I can put to good use in my future career. I will just continue on this path and strive to become the best version of myself by taking on new challenges and using the knowledge I have acquired to make the most of my given potential in life.
What advice would you give to future interns who also want to intern abroad?
I would recommend starting your internship with an open mind and respect for the host culture. Always be polite and friendly, show that you are motivated, committed and willing to learn from the people in charge of your internship. Some things may be handled differently than in your home country, so don’t make snap judgments or impose your culturally-influenced worldviews on them.
Last but not least, let the internship site know that you are grateful for the opportunity to intern. Simply because they are also investing time and resources in you, which will help you gain international work experience and develop valuable skills.
Ready to start planning your own internship abroad? Here’s how to started!
Our step-by-step guide on how it works provides you with more information on how to get started. The process is user friendly - just submit your application to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and won’t take more than 5 minutes. However, your formal expression of interest provides the foundation for us to help you take the next steps.