A major life decision is not something that happens overnight, especially not a career change.
Jill decided to grab life by the horns and left her career in the medical field to pursue her options in the business world. She joined our intern abroad program in Florence, Italy this Fall 2019, landed a full-time internship in marketing, and hasn’t looked back!
1. What made you want to intern abroad?
Well, it was a few things. It all began when I went on a week long culinary vacation in Italy with my aunt this past Spring. We stayed in a beautiful villa in Palombara Sabina. Throughout the week, we partook in multiple cooking classes and visited neighboring towns and cities, including Rome. I had the time of my life.
From learning about Italian culture to tasting all of the wonderful dishes, I completely fell in love with the language, people, and experiences that I had. I knew I needed to live there. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in Italy for a few months?!
I wanted to discover a piece of myself that was waiting to be explored. So when I came home, I waited a couple of weeks just to make sure it wasn’t the “high of the trip” talking. But after a month, the feeling didn’t go away.
On top of everything else, I was unhappy with the way I was headed professionally. Although I was working in one of the best U.S. cities for healthcare careers; Boston, I didn’t feel challenged or that I was growing. My career was undoubtedly interesting, but I just knew something was missing.
I graduated with my MBA in May 2018 from Simmons University, so I was a really strong candidate for a job that was fairly easy to me. I felt complacent, and at a standstill with my career path.
I knew I needed a change and marketing was always of interest to me. The dynamic capacity of marketing to change with technology is fascinating - it’s an ever-growing market. I knew with my Learner and Achiever Gallup strengths, along with my strong adaptability, that I would be an excellent marketing candidate.
With all of this in mind, I knew I had to take action. I figured, 'if not now, then when'? We waste so much time in life wondering and less time taking action towards the things we want.
So, I started doing research. I knew that Americans couldn't just move abroad, and that we need sponsorship or a visa to do so. Because this is fairly challenging, I looked into temporary options. This is when I came upon the unpaid internship idea. I knew being unpaid would be a challenge, but if I could work it out financially, then I would go for it. I ended up having the budgetary means to make this happen, and that’s when I found Global Experiences.
I did quite a bit of research on the company before formally applying. I wanted to make sure it was legitimate and reputable. There were all good reviews online and my previous MBA advisor recommended the program to me, so I was sold.
I looked into their programs and, of course, I was going to choose Italy so I had to choose between Milan and Florence. I chose Florence - a small, walkable city known for its wonderful food, sights, and Tuscan wine. I applied for the internship, and here I am!
(Rolling hills of Tuscany - Florence, Italy)
2. Has your internship helped clarify your new career path and future professional goals?
So far, I think it has. I definitely want to continue my career in the marketing field when I return home. The specific type of marketing I'll pursue is uncertain, but now I at least have some background in the affiliate marketing and content marketing sectors to give me a head start.
From this experience, I have learned that it is never too late to change the direction or path of your career. If you feel complacent or stuck, you should never be afraid to change it. Happiness and fulfillment are important qualities in life, especially when it comes to your career.
My future career goals will be to take more risks and ask for what I want more often. There shouldn’t be any fear, because the worst answer that you can get is no. No isn't a bad answer, it just gives your path a different road to go down moving forward.
3. What's your favorite part about your internship and internship tasks?
My internship host company, Bravo Savings Network, is an affiliate marketing firm who partners with merchants (like CheapOAir) to utilize their sites to get deals and offers to consumers through portal pages.
My favorite part of the internship is the amount of diversity within the office. Bravo Savings Network has expanded to five countries beyond Italy - Spain, the UK, France, the US, and Germany - so I have coworkers from each country and hear different languages being spoken throughout the day! It’s incredible. It isn't often to get an experience like this in the United States.
Although this diversity is amazingly refreshing and helping me become more globally aware, the language barrier has been a challenge. My coworkers are very pleasant and friendly, but even though I speak some Italian, conversation is my weakest point. I will keep trying!
I work on the U.S. market team and mainly do content marketing on their dashboard. My role is to “hunt” U.S. merchants, which means I research various portals (RetailMeNot, Google, provider portal, etc.) to make sure our merchants are completely up-to-date with deals and information. If they are, Bravo gets more consumer traffic and it increases sales.
Other tasks include SEO content writing for our various seasonal campaigns (Halloween, Black Friday, etc.). It has been great getting hands-on experience in marketing and business.
(At the Duomo in Siena, Italy)
4. What has helped you transition to living in a new country?
So far, I’ve traveled to 11 countries in my life. Travel is my biggest passion. It makes me the happiest, especially when I get to enjoy the experiences with friends or family. I want to experience and see as much as possible, so I travel whenever I can.
What’s helped me transition is my ability to adapt easily and be alone for long periods of time. I am not the type of person who gets homesick. I’m an only child and had to be independent from a young age, so I enjoy my alone time and exploring new places. I think this personality trait made it easy to adapt to a new culture and city. I fully embraced it from day one.
I also assumed that things would go wrong during my time here. There were going to be language barriers and things out of my control, and that’s completely okay. The best things to do is roll with the punches and always have a positive attitude. This way, nothing really phases you, because you’re living in Italy! How can anyone be upset when living in one of the most beautiful and culturally rich countries in the world?
5. What have you done with your free time?
Traveled, of course! :) One of my goals of this experience is to travel and explore as much of the country as I can. So far, I’ve been to Pisa, Bologna, Milan, Venice, and Rome. All of these cities are incredibly wonderful and special in their own way.
Italy is a beautiful country and each area is different, it’s amazing to see the variations in culture from each region. It’s also incredibly easy to travel around Italy, the train system is fantastic. It’s fast, efficient, and affordable. So it’s very easy to plan day trips to most places!
Other than travel, I want to try as much food as I can, and wine of course. I’m a big foodie and very into wine at this moment in life. Tuscan food and wine is impeccable, so it’s been great to experience both so far.
(Delicious food and wine in Bologna | Ice cream by the Duomo in Florence, Italy)
6. How did your friends and family react?
My friends were incredibly supportive, they’ve been my rock throughout this whole process. They just want to make sure that I’m happy, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
My family reacted a bit differently. I only have one parent, so the most difficult conversation was with my dad. At first, he was completely shocked and not supportive. Though after some time, he came to his senses and encouraged my endeavors. He just wanted for me to be happy, no matter where I ended up.
He explained that his initial reaction was just shock to the drastic changes I wished to pursue - especially because my life was so settled and rooted. I was living in a nice apartment in Boston with my long-term boyfriend, I had a great new job, and I had just graduated with my MBA.
Everything seemed to be falling into place, but something was missing for me. I could feel it. I knew I had to do something about it. Because, if not now, then when? As I mentioned before, we get complacent in life and we lose sight of the things that we truly want. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
So in the end, both my family and friends were very supportive of this choice. But, it’s important to note that I was going to pursue this endeavor regardless of support. I knew it was right for me and I wasn’t going to let disapproval stop be from pursuing my goals.
I think a lot of the time, we use approval or disapproval from loved ones as ways to make final decisions for choices like these. My family and friends are incredibly important to me, but in the end, it’s my life. We decide what to do with it and we need to choose what’s going to make us happy.
7. What advice would you give to someone thinking about interning abroad?
Absolutely 100% go for it! So far, it has been the best choice I’ve ever made for myself. It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible.
The lifestyle change has been the most enjoyable. I highly recommend it to anyone. Walking everywhere, eating to your heart’s desire, drinking delicious wine, and meeting wonderful people from all over the world, what more could you want out of an experience?
Working for an international company is great exposure for you, professionally and personally. It’s an incredible experience to work and live in a different culture, and it makes you appreciate life and what you have. So, I highly recommend this to anyone who wishes to work abroad. Three things to remember: have an open mind, learn as much as you can, and appreciate everything!
[Video] A day in my life abroad
To show off Jill's unique perspective on life interning abroad in Florence, she “took over” the Global Experiences Instagram for a day. Check it out!
It’s your turn!
Jill’s experience highlights the most exciting parts of interning abroad - meeting new people, gaining work experience, adapting to different cultures, and learning about life.
Has her experience inspired you to pursue an internship in Florence? If so, fill out our short online application to speak with one of our Admissions Counselors about your international internship opportunities. What are you waiting for?