Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Experience in Spain!

Tips and tricks for studying abroad in Spain! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her Summer Global Internship experience.

It has been a couple weeks since I have been back from my Summer in Spain, and I already miss it! The people, activities, and of course the food, more specifically the 4 for 1∊ croissants you could get at any bakery. I also miss being with the other students in the internship. We were able to get so close to each other, I will at least get to see most of them when I am back on campus. However after reflecting on my trip, and sleeping for two days straight,  I want to give you all a couple tips for when you also go abroad for the summer:

  1. Always find the nearest McDonald’s to your home. It can be a nice reminder of the United States when you get homesick and it tastes way better than it does back in America. McDonald’s also is one of the only places that has public restrooms because sometimes you have to pay to use them in Europe.
  2. Travel! Whether you travel around Spain or to other countries it is a great experience. Just think, when is the next time you will be able to travel to this many places in a short amount of time. It also makes you more global and it a great conversation starter with companies!
  3. Try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Even if you do not know a lick of Spanish, it helps you immerse yourself in the culture. It also let’s your co-workers know you are trying and interested in the culture. Even if you just pick up a few words and phrases it is worth it!
  4. Keep an open mind! This may be one of the only times that you are in an entirely different country. Keep an open mind about the food, people, and culture in general. Be open to trying new things and if you get a chance just talk to random people! Talking to people around your age they can show you the non-touristy things to do and take you to some great restaurants.
  5. Have fun! Yes you are in a new country, meeting new people, and working a new job and it can get monotonous at times. However, you have to make the most of the trip while you are there. Do not be lazy when you are tired after work and someone asks you to go somewhere because you never know when you will be back!

Overall, this trip was worth it! Not only was I able to become a world traveler, but I gained so many friends from the trip, to hang out and study with when I came back to Fisher. There were many scholarships I applied to so I could get the cost down such as the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship the ODI Education Abroad Scholarship, these both helped to fund the trip. I was able to get real world business experience abroad, and not many people can say they have done that. Recruiters have been impressed with my experience, because not only did I work broad but I was able to make a considerable contribution to Fundación Aladina. I also gained many transferable skills, that helped me answer behavioral questions during interviews. As a bonus, the internship abroad also makes a great fun fact for when you come back to campus. I would recommend this trip to anyone and I am sure, if you follow these tips, you will have just as great of a trip as I did!   

Spain: The Finale

That’s a wrap! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her final week in Spain and her final work presentation on the Summer Global Internship Program.

I only have one week left in Spain and I am going back to visit my favorite places as well as visit anywhere I have not been. It is kind of bittersweet being in my last week of the trip because I have made new friends, memories, and gotten business experience, but I cannot wait to see my family!

Everyday after work I would go a do a different activity that I enjoyed doing in Spain! One day, I went to Parque Retiro. It is so beautiful and peaceful there, plus there are a ton of people just enjoying their time in the park. My friends and I rented one of the row boats and spent an hour rowing around in the park’s pond. It was very fun, but there are fish that jump in that pond, so it was sometimes a little scary because you did not know if they were able to jump into the boat. On another day, I went shopping for myself and friends back at home. In Spain, they had an entire week of sales up to 60% off in all the stores to try to get rid of the summer clothing. I was able to buy cute, fashionable things at an amazing price so it was money well spent.

Not only did I do activities but I also ate at some of my favorite places around Spain. Of course, I went and got gelato in Plaza Mayor and visited the local market there that is similar to the North Market here in Columbus. My friends and I also splurged one night and went to Jack Percoca a little Italian place we found with the best truffle mac and cheese I ever had! Throughout the trip I ate at the McDonald’s a couple times because I was either feeling homesick or I was craving it. The McDonald’s abroad is ten times better than the ones in America, plus they have a dessert cafe in each one.

On my last day of my internship, it was so hard to say goodbye. I made sure before the trip that I brought Ohio State thank you cards and pens for the people in my office. I wanted to make sure that before I left, I would be able to give them a proper thank you for having me, so I gave it to them at my farewell lunch. I also presented my marketing strategies for the company and finished translating the final documents from Spanish to English. Both of these projects were to get more people to donate and become ‘Friends of Aladina, as well as expand into the English market’. Not only did they like my ideas, but I also presented the entire thing in Spanish. I presented a powerpoint presentation, on the best ways to get more donations. I presented my ideas just like I would in class at Fisher. One minor difference was that they asked me questions while I presented instead of waiting till the end of the presentation. It was a great way for me to see that I improved my Spanish and I was able to help the organization who helped me!

 

Spanish Culture Do’s and Don’ts

Is culture shock real? Junior Alex Jackson explores cultural differences between Spain and the United States, and shares her tips on how to navigate the culture.

There were many cultural norms in Spain that were different in the United States. First, the concept of personal space. In the United States, unless you know someone very well you tend to keep your distance when meeting someone or even just in public spaces. When standing in crowds, you try not to stand too close unless it is absolutely necessary to be on top of each other. Even in a crammed train or bus I am still on the lookout to make sure no one is trying to take my things or read over my shoulder. In Spain the concept of personal space seems almost non-existent. On the metro, there would be plenty of seats open but people would hop on and sit right next to you! This took some getting used to because I did not understand why out of all the seats you would pick mine. This was also alarming because we were warned of getting pick pocketed and I did not want people too close to me who I was not familiar with. Another cultural norm I learned from riding the metro everywhere is that staring was completely normal. I do not know if this is because I was American or if it was just normal for people to stare and talk about someone so blatantly. I do think that some of this probably came from people thinking I did not know how to speak Spanish.

Secondly, there was a lot of public displays of affection. People would hold hands, kiss, and even sit on each others laps in public. People were very touchy with each other, especially those close to my age. When I asked someone why that was, they said  that there is a lot of public affection because young adults tend to live at home until they finish university. This meant that they did not have the same freedoms that we have in college here. Many of us move away from home, get our own apartments, and pay our own bills. There is a big family aspect in Spain and because young adults cannot freely bring their significant other in their house they show a lot of affection in public.

The last difference between American culture and Spanish culture was the fashion. For one, there is no sales tax on clothes, so the price you see on the tag is the price you pay. Also, being in Europe clothes were much cheaper! Being closer to the manufacturers even designer goods were cheaper to buy in Spain. Everyone in Spain seemed to be trendier than those in the United States, including the kids. There were mainstream stores like Zara and H&M but there were also huge discount stores like Primark where you could find anything you wanted, at good quality for a low price. I noticed the difference in fashion because when I went to work, everyone dressed trendy and not necessarily business professional. This gave me a great excuse to go shopping for new, trendy clothes!

The biggest takeaway from living in Spain was that, for me, there was not much of a cultural difference to the United States. It was easy to adjust when it came to personal space and staring, but other than that it was not a huge adjustment. The best advice I received before traveling to Spain, was do not act like a tourist. This is the best advice, act like you belong there and people will not bother you, or single you out!

International Experience: Non-profit v. For-profit

Summer Global Internship participant Alex Jackson discusses the differences between working abroad in Spain versus here in the United States, as she attends a meeting including the CEO of the company.

In working for a small nonprofit company, I was able to meet the founder and CEO of Fundación Aladina, Paco Arango. He is a very busy man, but would stop in the office every once in awhile for either a quick meeting or update. It was usually before the organization would have an event and the team would convene to talk logistics about the event. At first, it was hard for me to keep up during those meeting because everyone was speaking Spanish really fast. However, by the second mini meeting Paco had stopped and caught me up in English as to what was going on. Although I was able to understand most of the meeting, it was nice for him to make sure I understood. His reiterating the meeting in English affimed that I was improving on my Spanish speaking skills.

I was also able to sit in on their larger monthly meeting one afternoon. Surprisingly to me the meeting was through a working lunch. Through research, and the class we had taken before the trip, in Spain meetings do not usually happen over lunch because lunch is a social activity. Many times my entire office would go eat together for at least an hour and just take a break from the long day. I was also lucky to be able to get the food for the lunch with one of my co-workers Sara. This was a great way for me to learn more about her and get to know what she does at the organization. It was nice because she had only been there for about 4 months, so we were in the same boat when it came to adjusting to a new work environment.

The meeting was also located at Paco’s loft which had a long table in it specifically for business meeting. The topic of this meeting was, the new movie and its release across Spain. Fundación Aladina had been working hard on the movie premiere because all of the funds raised from the movie would go to the ‘Aladinos’, the children they assisted, so they could attend a summer camp specifically for kids with cancer. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities of meetings in Spain versus the United States. Since the organization is so small, all employees except for Paco had a mini meeting beforehand to make sure they all knew how each of their roles would play into the premiere. When we got into the meeting Paco was doing most of the talking, my boss was constantly interrupted by him while she was explaining the plan. This was different than in the United States because usually the presentation would finish and then questions would be asked. Another interesting thing is that the movie release and premiere was a team effort but the discussion at the table was only between three major people, Paco, my boss, and a coordinator. I thought this was interesting because the rest of the team would not speak unless they were spoken to, or asked a question directly.

Also, the dress code of the meeting was very casual everyone was in jeans and a shirt either blouse of a t-shirt. In the United States people dress up in business professional clothes for meetings, but I did not know if this meeting was a special case because they are a non-profit. Paco also made all the final decisions. Seeing that he is a head of the company he took the information given to him and either told people to work on certain things or to change that part of the proposal completely. What I learned from the meeting is, like in the United States, always be prepared. I was not expecting to speak at the meeting but I did and was able to contribute to the conversation. It may be obvious but, do your best to follow the conversation. In the meeting people started talking at the same time and would interrupt each other, and I never knew if I could add to the meeting. Overall the meeting was casual, fun, and I was even able to speak a little on how the website marketing should work!

Volunteering in Spain

Interested in working with Non-Profits? Junior Alex Jackson talks about her experience volunteering with one in Madrid, Spain on the Summer Global Internship Program.

One of the great things about working with a non-profit organization is you can actually see the impact you have on the people you serve. Although I spend most of the time in the office I was able to visit Hospital Niño Jesus and volunteer with our ‘Aladinos’,who are children with cancer the Fundación Aladina supports. One of my coworkers let me go with her on her weekly visit to the hospital, just to spend time with the patients. I also visited the hospital midway through my time in Spain, this was a perfect way for me to see what the organization actually does and how what I work on daily would help the children.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was given a tour and able to see the wing of the hospital. There was a room full of toys, board games, and a TV for the students to be able to play with. At the end of the hall, there was a relaxation room for the parents of the patients. It had comfy chairs, TV’s, and its own bathroom. When I ask why it was created, it was for the parents to take a break from all the emotions that can come with a child in the hospital for so long. Also, each child’s room was designed for the patient to have the most comfortable experience while they are battling their cancer. It was also very colorful and the children’s artwork was on the walls in the halls and in each of their rooms.

While I was there we played charades, in Spanish. This was both fun and difficult for me because I had to really think about my vocabulary and make sure I even knew what they wrote down. One word I had to describes was ‘guitar’ and that was hard because I knew barely any vocabulary about music. One of the kids offered to help me! I would whisper the word describing a guitar in English to him and then he would whisper is back in Spanish. What made it more interesting was that the kids were speaking to me in English, but I was speaking with them in Spanish. This helped me with my Spanish and also helped to improve their English. When I would respond in English they would all say “OOOO NO ENGLISH” and then make me say it again in Spanish. The kids were having a blast and I could see my volunteering was good for the family too. The parents were able to relax, take a break, or have fun with the kids  while the volunteers were there. I was able to see that what Fundación Aladina does, really impacts the families lives with both the volunteering and the facilities they provide.

Also, since my visit was midway through my summer, it helped me to see why they had me doing the work I did. It reminded me of why I was there for the summer too. The work I was doing could bring in more funds for the organization, which meant the more children they were able to impact. My volunteering gave the kids a break from the doctors and let them be kids again for a little while. I started feeling a little homesick around this time because the “thrill” of living in a new place was wearing off and I was in a routine every day. The visit let me see that my work had purpose and even helped me create new ideas for my summer marketing project at the organization. I also started visiting new parts of Madrid I had not seen to remind myself that I was in Spain. This helped with my homesickness because it reminded me I would not be here forever and to enjoy every moment I had!

Sports in Spain: ¡CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ!

Sports in Spain! Hear Junior Alex Jackson’s experience of being in Madrid during the country’s biggest soccer game of the season, while interning on the Summer Global Internship Program.

Sports are a huge part of Spanish culture! One of the first places I went to when I got to Madrid was the soccer Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu. It is a huge stadium that has many great restaurants across from it. There are also tours you can take in the stadium, I never got around to doing that but some of the other students did.

Since soccer, or fútbol, is such a huge part of Spanish culture we were lucky to be here during the Champions League Final game of Real Madrid versus Juventus. This was a huge deal because if Real Madrid won the game they would be named League Champions! There was a lot riding on this game and luckily all of our employers made sure we understood how big of a match this was. To get in the spirit of this momentous game, a huge group of students decided to go to a local bar to watch the game. We wanted to be able to experience a Spanish soccer game just like the fans, and we were not disappointed!

When we first got to the bar, it was already packed and we arrived three hours before the game. The atmosphere was contagious, I even bought a Real Madrid soccer jersey beforehand so I could join in the fun. It was great to see how an entire country could rally behind  one team and how they had so much pride! Although Real Madrid was favored to win, it was still a great game. The fans cheered the entire time and when Real Madrid scored the first goal, the crowd went crazy! Similar to Ohio State football games there was screaming and chanting, friendly taunting to the other team it was definitely a site to see. The crowd also sang different songs and chants throughout the entire game, which is a little different than OSU games. At halftime the fans from both teams trickled into the street and a couple fights almost broke out, both fans were chanting and excited to see the outcome of the game.

The final outcome, Real Madrid won! Everyone stormed the streets and ran to the main square. It was complete chaos but it was so much fun! We were able to meet up with the rest of the internship students and we all danced and chanted ¡‘CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ’! The atmosphere was incredible seeing people hugging, jumping up and down, and being extremely proud to be Spanish! 

The rest of the night we decided to all stay together and take in this huge win! We went to multiple places for food and were able to connect with the people of Spain more by celebrating the streets. Being a part of this soccer celebration showed me the pride Spain had for its team and that everyone could join in the party! However, the celebration was great but we had to be conscious that we were still in another, at the time, unfamiliar country. By staying in a group we were able to watch out for each other and truly enjoy the experience of being CAMPEONES!

International Travel Tips, from an International Traveler!

Working hard all week, calls for international travel on the weekend! See how Junior Alex Jackson balanced the two and her tips on traveling abroad while abroad on the Summer Global Internship Program in Spain.

The great part about having an internship abroad is that you are abroad! This means you get to travel on the weekend with your friends and see the rest of the world more easily and usually less expensive than you would if you left from the United States. It is also a great opportunity to get to know other students on the trip.

The first weekend I decided it would be best to stay in Madrid and just explore the city I would be calling home for a couple months. I was able to find some great restaurants and hang out at the tallest rooftop in Madrid, Círculo de Bellas Artes. We were able to relax, take pictures, and see how beautiful of a city Madrid really is. Besides Madrid, within Spain I also went to Granada, Barcelona, Valencia, and the island of Mallorca. My favorite out of all these places was Barcelona! It was just like Madrid but with a beach, and we were able to see La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Fun travel tip: If you want to see all the big landmarks of the city book a bike tour, it is a great way to get exercise and see the entire city!

Traveling outside of Spain was a little more expensive for us. I think if we would have booked those weekend while we were still in the United States it would have been cheaper. However, a group of us got together and booked the trips! They were a little expensive but definitely worth it because I was able to explore the world. Outside of Spain I went to Portugal, France, and London. Portugal was a ton of fun because almost everyone from the internship program went on the trip. We all stayed in a hostel together and were able to experience the celebration of Saint John, the patron Saint of Porto, Portugal. At this festival there were food trucks, drinks, and hammers! As part of the tradition, people hit each other over the head with hammers during the event. Originally, you only hit those you wanted to ‘court’ with a hammer, but today it is just fun for everyone to do! It was so much fun to be able to experience another culture! Beside Portugal my favorite place was France, more specifically Disneyland France! It was a great time and was a smaller version of Disney World Florida.

From all this traveling I learned two things: to plan and be flexible. It is important to come in with a plan, but you also have to be flexible with it. It can be hard to be flexible when something goes wrong because you have limited time, but if you worry about what you are missing you will miss the entire trip! However, it is important to plan the excursions like the bike tour or even tickets to a museum. Also, many times the hotel will have pamphlets for you of things to do while in country. If you run out of things to do for the weekend ask a local, they can tell you where the best spots are to eat or visit! 

Getting the Job Done Right!

After a successful first weekend in Spain, Junior Alex Jackson talks about adjusting to working in an international environment as she participates in the Summer Global Internship Program. She shares her observation on the differences in business norms between Spain and the U.S.

Although my title is as a Marketing and Communications intern, they have me doing much more! It is nice though because some of my other friends on the trip are having trouble staying busy at work. My main function is to work on the website as well as my final marketing project on ways Fundacion Aladina can expand its image and into the community. Although it may not seem like a large task, working on the website and translating it from Spanish to English was helping the organization expand into English speaking markets, mainly the United States, because non-profit organizations are more common here. This is huge for them because a lot of their business runs on donations, so it is important for them to build relationships with as many people as possible.

Although I was mainly working on the website, I was able to see many different parts of the business. I was able to sit in on interviews to fill new positions, pack and ship merchandise to customers, and help plan a movie premier. It was really cool to see how a non-profit functioned and the multiple “hats” my colleagues would put on to accomplish their daily tasks.

Seeing these interactions in the office made me realize a couple of comparisons between business in the United States and in Spain. First, that time was not as important. Many times, meetings would not start on time and no one was offended. My coworkers would continue working until the meeting arrived and sometimes they would even continue working until they were ready to meet. In the United States time is very important, there is even the saying, “If you’re on time you’re late”. Another thing I noticed is that the organization was very friendly with their clients. They would all chat as though they have known each other for a long time and would greet each other with a hug. I do not know if this is because  I am at a nonprofit organization or if it is just how business is conducted in Spain. I also found it interesting that all of the meetings were in the morning before lunch. After I asked some of my co-workers, we came to the conclusion that after lunch people may have other obligations such as family, health, or social. The work life balance in Spain is very important and I even noticed this with my boss when I was sick she told me to take the day off and get checked out. It seemed as though the person came first and the work came second.

These differences in the workplace were refreshing to see, because in the United States it seems like the job comes first and then the person. Or that we are very business oriented and worried about time that we do not get to know those we do business with or the best thing for the employees. The friendly and truly team-oriented culture, made me want to do my job even better because I know my work truly mattered. I also realized that jobs are not always about the money, but you have to fit well with the people and overall culture of the company. When looking for an internship for next summer, I will definitely make sure the company has good values and company culture.  Although I think this idea is changing in U.S. business culture it was heavily a part of the business culture in Spain.

New Country, New City, New Experiences!

After just one week in Madrid, Spain Junior Alex Jackson discusses the excitement of moving to a new country and navigating your way around the city.  

The first week has been full of activities, adjusting to work, and exploring the city! The flight to Madrid was long but it was funny running into other people on the trip when we landed in Madrid because we all looked a little lost with our phones out looking for directions where to go. We were all bussed to the accommodations and they were beautiful and in a perfect location, Moncloa! Moncloa is a part of town with multiple metro stations, popular restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. They were very similar to a dorm but we had dinner included, our rooms were cleaned while we were there, and it was a 5 minute walk from two metro stations.

The partnering agency did a great job at making sure we adjusted well. They planned a welcome reception for us where we were able to meet all the students in the program! They then went over what the 10 weeks would look like for us and how to get our metro cards activated. After this meeting my friends and I decided to settle in and then wander to find the nearest McDonald’s. I know finding a McDonald’s in Spain?! The one thing I have learned from traveling so much is to always find the nearest McDonald’s!! Not to eat at all the time but sometimes it is just good to eat food that reminds you of home!

Day 2 in Spain my roommate and friend bought a 2 day metro pass to go get our month long passes. This was a task! First, we got turned around and walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction. When we finally got on the metro station, we were not paying attention and missed our stop! We had to double back to the metro card office where we waited for a short period of time until they were able to help us. We took our pictures and got home without a problem!

The day before work we traveled to our new work sites to make sure we could get there on Monday morning. I ran into a little trouble, but the partner agency was very helpful and escorted me to my site Monday morning, so I would get there safely! My first day of work was nerve wracking and fun at the same time. My office was so small, but everyone was so nice! They took me on a tour of the office, helped me get situated, and even took me out to lunch! They spoke in Spanish the entire time, but this is what I wanted. It was a little overwhelming but I was able to understand enough to learn about my co-workers and the job. I worked from 9-2 everyday, so I asked them to make a “What to do in Madrid” list that I could do after work! On the first day of work, do not be nervous, dress your best, and ask questions! Remember that they picked you to intern with them for a reason and that first impressions are the most important. Treat the internship as a way to figure out what you like and don’t like, ask questions to get to know the company, employees, and their everyday jobs.

Besides work, the partnering agency had so many activities planned for us the first week! We went to some of the staple places in Madrid like Parque Retiro, Temple Debod, and the Royal Palace of Madrid. These were just the places I went to but it was optional to go. My favorite was Parque Retiro is was huge, beautiful, full of activity! People were walking, running, reading in the grass, and playing music in open areas. The park was peaceful and full of life at the same time. The group had a picnic there and took so many pictures together. My first week was great and if it is a precursor to the rest of my trip I would enjoy it!

Summer in Spain? Don’t mind if I do!

Summer Global Internship Program Participant, Alex Jackson, talks about her anticipation of working abroad in Madrid, Spain! She also shares some insights to the process of being matched up with companies.

I was just accepted to go to Spain for the Summer Global Internship Program! I am excited to learn about the culture in Spain as well as improve my Spanish speaking skills. That is the main reason why I decided to study in Spain, because I think it is important to know another language. I have been taking Spanish since I was a freshman in high school, but do not get to use it much at school. I am hoping through this experience I will be able to come back speaking more smoothly than I do now!

The job hunt process for the program was fast and easy. The partnering agency was personable and really wanted to make sure I was placed in an internship I felt I would enjoy! The first interview was with the partnering agency getting to know me, going over my resume, testing my Spanish, and figuring out what I wanted in a company. Be honest during the interview, because you are interviewing for what you want to get out of the internship. Also, know your resume, they will ask you questions about it! Because of my previous history with speaking Spanish, I was able to be placed at a company that only spoke Spanish! This was exciting for me because I knew I would be fully immersed in the language and Spanish culture. My preferences for a company were a little difficult because I wanted to work for a small nonprofit organization, because I wanted to see the differences between working at a for profit company and a nonprofit. Although they said it might be a difficult hunt, they were able to find an organization for me! The search for an organization took about three months, I actually forgot I was going to be working in Spain for a little bit! However, the wait did not disappoint!

The partnering agency was able to find two non-profit organizations who were willing to have an intern for the Summer! After weighing my options I decided to go with Fundación Aladina, a nonprofit that supports children with cancer. When I decided on my organization, I took to the social media to find out more about them. They were VERY active on social media and their Instagram was beautiful! I could tell by their interaction with the followers and office pictures they posted that their organization was like a family. I then had a follow-up interview with Ishtar Espejo, who is the director of the organization and fortunately we hit it off! She enjoyed my energy, was informative, excited to work with me, and was very clear of her expectations of the internship. The interview with my boss made me even more excited to go! She expressed that she wanted my internship to be a learning experience for both of us. This reassured me that I was going to have a great experience because the organization wanted me there as much as I wanted to be there!

All while I was waiting to hear back from the partnering agency, all the students going to Spain were taking a class on Spain and what to expect. This was very helpful because the campus coordinator for the partnering agency came to a couple sessions and we were able to ask her so many questions! The most informative class for me, was when students from the previous summer came to speak to us. They were able to give us tips, such as, do not leave your phone on the table when you eat and good places to visit in the city. In the class a lot of students seemed nervous to be traveling so far for so long, however I was so excited! Traveling has always been a passion of mine and being able to travel and gain more experience in my major was a win win!