We sat down with Northeastern University student, Mary Kate Kelly, to get the inside scoop on her Marketing & Communications internship in Spain! Read about how she stepped outside her comfort zone, overcome language barriers and worked towards achieving her long term career goals.
For others considering an internship abroad, what advice would you give?
If you’re considering if an internship abroad is right for you, I would say it is! I think everyone can benefit in some way, however big or small, and no matter what, you will learn about yourself and grow in ways that you wouldn’t be challenged to in a familiar environment.
Although I didn’t know what to expect at first, Intern Abroad HQ did a great job organizing my internship abroad and I would recommend them to anyone in the future. Just go for it! You won’t regret it as long as you’re prepared to be faced with challenges and experience highs and lows.
I think the most important advice is to continue to be persistent when you’re trying to adapt to a new environment. Be mentally prepared to not know what’s going on sometimes, because that is how you will learn and grow from the experience in the most rewarding way. The best thing you can do is put aside your own ideologies and learn from the people and cultures around you.
This personal internship experience has taught me the value and importance of keeping an open mind and listening to others as a way of learning, instead of coming in with your own ideas and biases. It’s important to be flexible, because that is how you will learn the most and get the most out of the experience.
Would you recommend Spain as an internship destination to others?
Spain was amazing! I don’t think I could’ve picked a better location, than an internship in Valencia! Valencia has everything you could want in a European city – great weather, the beach, varied architecture, museums, a ton of bars, restaurants, discotecas, and a diverse population of international students and young professionals. Valencia also has easy access to beautiful towns nearby and quick transportation to other cities by train or countries by flight. Spain as a whole has a wonderful culture, and the people are very friendly and warm. For me, Valencia as a city was a big highlight.
What were your initial expectations coming into this internship?
I wanted to come into this internship without any expectations. I wanted to stay open minded because I knew it was going to be totally different from anything I had done before. During my second day at my internship, I was already really enjoying the tasks that my supervisor had given me. She was very open to catering the position towards my background and interests and seemed really impressed with my work!
I think as an intern I didn’t expect to have a real place within the company, but everyone was open to utilizing my work as a real employee and giving me tasks that would really benefit the company. Everyone at my internship placement was so welcoming and interested in learning about my background.
I also really enjoyed having a host mom and I loved the meals she prepared for me each day. She was incredibly kind and caring and I would recommend her to anyone in future!
Can you tell us more about your Marketing & Communications internship?
During my internship I took on the role of a Marketing Technician and intern for a biotechnology company specializing in natural solutions for crop protection, biostimulation and nutrition.
As a marketing intern I worked with a small team on a number of cross-functional projects that included: editing dossiers as marketing materials for our English-speaking stakeholders, working with technical teams as a liaison between our science and marketing departments to ensure alignments, planning events to showcase the progress of the company, and working with the marketing team to help design a product portfolio to expand into various markets.
These tasks allowed me to greatly improve my perspective on how biotech companies operate under different regulations. They tested my ability to adapt to new scenarios and problem solve. Being adaptable is crucial in biotech and I´ve learned that the key to problem solving is remaining calm, assessing the information available, and coming up with the best decision based on that information and other resources.
How did this contribute towards your long-term career goals?
My internship allowed me to try a new job role and sector within the biotech industry and add variation to my career. I think this internship will open a lot of doors for me in terms of pivoting towards marketing, if I choose to pursue it. I had a lot of projects available to me, all of which addressed a different aspect of marketing.
In terms of skills, I have utilized time management, communication, networking, organization, creativity, event planning, and problem-solving. I think being a part of the Marketing Team has also helped me greatly with my commercial awareness, as it is important to know the entire field/market of your company to do the job well. In order to have a competitive edge and continually innovate, you have to see what the needs of the stakeholders are in your sector.
A good example of this in my internship is the niche of each product as it is sold to different countries across the globe. Important details such as label, product name, ingredients, language, and how each product is marketed, changes with each country.
How did you manage the Spanish language barrier?
At times, I did find the Spanish language barrier a challenge, but a welcomed challenge! I pushed myself to not give up and resort back to speaking English all the time.
Even if I did know some Spanish, or the people I was with were fluent in English, some things still got lost in translation. I quickly learnt to constantly check that each person is on the same page and listening really well. If I am the person trying to get a message across, I might ask it a few times in different ways, make gestures, or even use Google Translate if we´re really stuck.
When I am listening to someone, I might repeat their question so they know I understood them correctly. Usually you can tell by body language if you and the other person are on the same page and understand the message.
Persistence is key and I’m proud of myself for being so resilient. I think it’s important to not give up or instantly resort to speaking English because it’s easier. Get creative with your problem-solving skills and take one day at a time!
What was your greatest success from this internship experience?
Success to me is being happy and fulfilled in whatever I’m doing. My greatest success in my internship has been my personal development, and being able to adjust to the daily life and tasks of a completely new environment. I consider this a success because it can be transferred over to my professional life.
Employers value employees that can remain calm and problem solve under pressure, and being in a new place where you don’t know the language forces you to constantly challenge your thinking and remain open to creative possibilities.
I think that everyday I was on my internship, I was improving and adding to my sense of resilience and adaptability, through stepping outside my comfort zone, meeting new people and overcoming challenges. I have surprised myself with how much I was able to handle, adapt, and let go.
Reflecting on the progress that I´ve made, I can now focus on using this experience to help develop my career into other areas of biotech.
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