What happens when you travel to Barcelona with your family and fall completely in love with the city? You decide to intern there and call it your home for a few months! At least that’s what Heather G. did the summer before her senior year at Carnegie Mellon University. Heather, a behavioral economics and psych major, hopped back on a plane and completed a marketing internship in Barcelona, Spain.
Why I decided
As someone who always loved to travel, Heather said interning in Barcelona was a natural choice. She knew “interning abroad would be a great way to experience another country to the fullest extent possible” and decided to follow her heart. It just so happened that following her heart led her to the most vibrant city in the world.
Deciding on Barcelona
Sometimes figuring out where you want to live and work internationally is extremely difficult, but for Heather the stars aligned and the decision was easy. Barcelona was the perfect choice; it was already one of Heather’s favorite cities.
An internship abroad also allowed Heather to step outside her comfort zone and immerse herself in another culture. Having traveled to Barcelona previously, she knew that going back to a city full of “vibrant life, delicious food, and stunning architecture.”
She felt going to Spain was an absolute must and also because “as cliche as it sounds, there really is something new to discover around every corner in Barcelona.” Heather discovered that Barcelona was a city buzzing with life. It also helped that her friends and family were supportive of her decision and as Heather puts it, “Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer in Barcelona?”
A few of her friends were even able to stop by for a visit while they were traveling elsewhere in Europe and she was able to practice some helpful phrases like “Una mesa para dos, por favor” (a table for two, please).
Arriving in Spain
Packing your suitcase and moving across the North Atlantic isn’t a small task. Expect to feel a myriad of things: anticipation, excitement, wanderlust, and of course - a little nervous. Like quite a few interns, Heather was most nervous about the language barrier. An internship in a foreign country in a different language - you can expect some butterflies.
But Heather says, “I spoke essentially zero Spanish when I showed up” and was nervous about “the communication barrier” but actually being immersed in the culture and the language was great, and once she started to communicate with local Barceloní they were “happy to speak to me in Spanish to help me practice.”
Heather quickly discovered that Barcelona es la caña (it means awesome). Learning a few basic but important phrases like ¿Vamos a tapear esta noche? (we're going to get tapas tonight) helped Heather immerse herself even more in Catalonia’s culture and enjoy delicious food.
“I had so many tapas. They're everywhere, you can't really avoid them! My favorite meals were the ones where a big group of us would go out to a restaurant, order a bunch of tapas, and share everything.”
An international marketing internship isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Based off your interests, talents, and goals, there are hundreds of things you can do. You can do anything from blogging and content creation, to transcultural anthropology. When Heather started her marketing internship at Eatwith, the world’s largest community for authentic food experiences with locals, she hit the ground running.
For Eatwith, the summer months are the busiest and as Heather says, “there was never a dull moment.” Heather learned how to juggle everything as her internship progressed and the work diversified as she made even more connections with different members of her team.
Heather’s internship was at a startup where she “loved the opportunity to learn about different strategies for business development” with tasks that included reviewing and improving visual content management and developing the best practices for social media promotion. Working at her company meant the ability to gain experience and training in event conceptualization and management, and it also meant an opportunity to open herself up to a different way of work and life.
The professional development was definitely a huge aspect of the internship for Heather, but really what was important to her was “learning how to work with people who come from different cultures and backgrounds... [and] working in a Spanish speaking office certainly helped with that.”
Optimizing client-guest relations and developing strategic content creation are definitely career boosting skills, but imagine what really living in another culture is going to give you for your life! In the words of Heather Graci, “It’s given me a broader perspective to bring with me where life takes me next.”
Heather realized that her internship gave her more than just professional experience, it gave her life experience. It also didn’t hurt that her internship was right across from the beach!
Heather may have been nervous about the language barrier when she first arrived in Barcelona, but soon discovered all of her coworkers were “happy to speak English with [her]” and they were “some of the sweetest people in the world [and] welcomed her with open arms.” Her absolute favorite thing about the office was the cultural diversity and the fact they had people from Spain, Italy, France, the UK, and the US all working together.
Exploring a new culture is a lot like tugging off a blindfold - there’s always that disorienting moment where you’re not quite sure where you are, but then your vision clears, and suddenly you can see everything again. For Heather, it “reinforced how small the bubble is that we live in.” She equates it to a puzzle, telling us that:
“The culture and way of life in the US is such a tiny piece of the global puzzle, and there’s so much more out there.”
From absorbing the impressive architecture by Antoni Gaudi, to breathing the breeze drifting off the Mediterranean, all the way to learning how to slow down and enjoy a cup of coffee with a stranger, there was so much for Heather to explore.
Adapting to Barcelona
When you are discovering essentially a new world of life, ruled by a different language, time zone, and palate, you are bound to find a couple unexpected things. For Heather that was dinner time and that people in Barcelona eat late, like “really late.” She adapted by having a snack around 6:30 PM most days but as a self-proclaimed “Type A person...there’s a lot to learn from the Spanish people.”
Heather says that Barcelona was a “much more relaxed environment than the States,” but that she decided on an international internship because it was a way to really immerse herself in another culture.
Spending a summer in one of the most beautiful places in the world gave Heather plenty of memorable experiences. From the people she met, to the millions of little things that stitched her experience together, she had so many life-changing moments to choose from. For Heather the biggest was:
“The importance of doing things outside of your comfort zone, for sure. Applying for this program was a bit of an impulsive decision, and I went in with only a few months of language experience and no idea what to expect. But here we are, and I wouldn't change a thing... except for maybe starting Spanish classes a few years earlier.”
During your international internship, be open to new experiences and don’t be afraid to dive in head first. Thanks to her open mind and willingness to try new things, Heather was able to thrive in a Barcelona.
A big part of what we do at Global Experiences is open the door to possibilities and help you answer questions like: Is this really something I see myself doing for the rest of my life? For Heather, this experience was eye-opening and when asked if it clarified what she wants to do career wise she said:
“Yes and no. Yes, in that it was a great work experience, and I definitely learned more about what I value in a company and in a work environment. No, because it's opened up my eyes to so many new international options that I hadn't even considered before! Although I think that's a pretty good problem to have.”
Advice to future interns
Having a life-changing experience fits perfectly with the saying “nothing worth having ever comes easy.” It’s not easy transplanting your life for a few months to live in a new country and Heather has some advice for those thinking about interning abroad:
“GO FOR IT! It might be scary, but it's worth it. I've learned so much about myself already...It's an incredible growth experience both personally and professionally, and you'll make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Every experience is unique. Every interaction shapes a new understanding, and that’s where the real life-changing moments happen. It can happen immediately when you land in a new city and wander around under the same sky that looks oh so different. It can also take time, when you’re half miming your drink order in a foreign language feeling a little embarrassed and a tad silly but completely exhilarated that you get to be there - experiencing everything you never thought you would.
Global Experiences is here to help you find those life-changing moments with an internship abroad. Apply today to find out about all the internship opportunities Barcelona has waiting for you.