As with any new undertaking, adding additional elements, like an internship, when planning your study abroad experience can seem daunting and leave you wondering if you should even do it in the first place.
As someone that has studied abroad with AIFS on both a traditional academic program and an internship program, I can tell you that each is an amazing and worthwhile experience.
After returning to the States from a semester on the AIFS Richmond in Rome program, I was certain that I wanted to study abroad with AIFS again, and return to Rome. As an International Business student, the course requirements for my major are a bit restrictive and I was concerned that I may not be able to study abroad again.
Fortunately AIFS offers internships that are worth academic credits, and are flexible to meet the different needs of students! Both 3 and 6 credit internships are available in Rome! I elected to complete a 6 credit internship, as this satisfied requirement for my major, allowed me to have an immersive experience, and left room for me to take the other terrific courses offered by Richmond University in Rome!
There were a plethora of places in Rome to apply to intern with through AIFS. Each of them was uniquely interesting, and would beneficial to both my college and future professional career. After much consideration, and conversation with the on-site internship coordinator in Rome, I was placed in the Embassy of the Republic of Malta to Italy. I can honestly say that one of the most exciting days of my life was when I received the email with my placement information. I had never step foot in an embassy before, much less interned for one, and the prospect of this was thrilling!
However, I was not without concerns. A million questions ran through my mind.
- Would working an internship prevent me from getting to know my fellow students on the program?
- Would I miss out on some of the key experiences of studying abroad because I’d be working?
- Will I be able to navigate the language barriers with my coworkers?
The first of these concerns was immediately alleviated. Even though I’d be doing an internship, the first 2 weeks of the program still entailed the orientation and Italian language learning with the rest of my classmates. This allowed me to bond with the people on my program, and learn essentials of the Italian language. The on-site internship coordinator also arranged for me to visit the Embassy prior to my start date so I was able to meet my supervisor and future coworkers. I learned that communication would not be an issue, and they were anxious to help me learn Italian and Maltese!
Having done internships in the States, I expected the actual work to be busy work and my coworkers to take little interest in what I did. Much to my delight, I discovered the exact opposite was true in my Embassy internship. My supervisor was interested in hearing about my classes and travel plans, and helping me with my work, and assimilation into Italy.
My duties at the embassy helped me learn about international relations and what all embassies do on a daily basis. This experience also helped my Italian language skills, and cultural knowledge. I learned that I’d have the opportunity throughout the semester to attend sessions at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This is headquartered in Rome, and I was taken there and received UN credentials from Malta (definitely the coolest souvenir from my time abroad)! I attended sessions of the FAO and took notes in order to prepare reports for the ambassador. Speaking of the ambassador, I was also able to interact with, and learn from her, which was an amazing experience! I was also able to attend a reception where the president of Malta was present to celebrate the anniversary of the Embassy in Rome! Meet a sitting president is something I’ll never forget.
Even with everything I was able to do through my internship, I never felt like I missed out on anything at the school in Rome, nor with my peers. I was able to work with my supervisor and the internship coordinator to set a schedule that fit comfortably with my classes, activities, and travel. Now, over a year after the conclusion of my internship, I can say that there has not been a day where I haven’t reflected fondly on my internship. It has also been useful as I am able to draw on my experience at the embassy in classes, and job interviews.
To anyone considering completing an internship abroad, I can tell you that it will enrich your study abroad experience beyond imagination, and be something you’ll remember and be thankful for every day!
Arrivederci e buona fortuna!