Arianne Zaragoza - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

The first instance when I pondered going abroad was when I was visiting friends in England. As I did a study abroad placement at a university there, returning to that city and reminiscing about that time in my life made me reflect how that learning experience taught me so much.

I guess what encouraged me even more to go abroad was the opportunity to both travel and get a professional experience. It was at a time when I was fresh out of university, but didn’t have a handful of experience yet to apply for a graduate role in my home city. I thought that it would be wise to gain experience on an international scale, since in the Australian job market, there’s countless graduates who are trying to land a job like myself, so I needed a competitive edge! And as I’m still quite young, I thought it would be the perfect time to do something like this.

Lastly, I really enjoy challenges. I find that when you are challenged is when you are bound to learn more and pick up skills efficiently. I could’ve taken the easy way by doing an internship at home (which still would’ve been very rewarding). However, I wanted to test myself in adapting to a completely different culture, trying to communicate in a non-English speaking nation, and living independently as well. Those are the other lessons you learn whilst going abroad, and ones that I’m happy I got to experience.

Gran Via, Madrid, Spain
Gran Via! Steps away from my apartment

Why did you choose The Intern Group?

I chose to do an international internship through The Intern Group since it was affiliated with my home university, and in my research, it always received excellent reviews. If I was going to live and work overseas, I wanted to choose a program that had been tried and tested. It has been featured in several big-time news platforms, and I really wanted an A-grade company to entrust this experience with.

The Intern Group also had various locations around the world, which I thought was appealing. In the end, I applied for an internship in Madrid, Spain—because I’ve never been to Spain and I thought that it would be a drastic culture difference from what I’m used to. The Intern Group also provided many benefits that allowed me to breathe easy through the whole process, including: providing your accommodation – start to finish of your program, pick up/drop off from airport, cultural and social events with other program members, and much more than I can list. These extra services is why I decided to choose The Intern Group, and I definitely do not look back on this decision with regret.

What was your favorite part about Madrid?

Madrid is a vibrant city that has plenty to offer. It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite aspect of Madrid or Spain in general. If I had to choose, it would be the lively atmosphere of the city. There is always something to do! Whether it’s a midnight churros run or soaking up some culture in the Museo Del Prado, there’s bound to be something that attracts people from all walks of life. Although on my weekends, I would do short trips to other Spanish cities or neighbouring countries, I always looked forward to staying put in Madrid.

My favourite days would be Sunday; going to the El Rastro flea market to pick up a 3 Euro paella, then maybe to get a smoothie and walk around Puerta Del Sol, or maybe even stop by the El Cortes Ingles in Callao to see the view from the top level. Then I’d go home, spend time with my flat mates, go out again, and catch the sunset at The Temple of Debod. After I’d have another quick stop at home, then explore more to find a place to eat for dinner. Maybe even go to a dance lesson or see the performers at Puerto Del Sol afterwards. I was quite happily busy in Madrid, although the majority of my plans were spontaneous!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I believe what made my experience abroad a unique one was my attitude going into it. I didn’t want to feel like a tourist experiencing Spanish culture, I wanted to become a Madrileño or a local and fit into the culture that exists there. Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do touristy things or be recognised as a foreigner whilst living there, I wanted to truly make Madrid my home, and a city I could recognise inside and out.

I strongly feel that I tried my absolute best to learn the lifestyle there. From only knowing two phrases in Spanish: “Hello, how are you?” and “I’m sorry, I can’t understand, my Spanish is bad.” I can gladly say I left being able to talk about the weather or how to order patatas bravas and most of the fundamentals. I remember feeling secretly proud of myself when people in the elevator would talk about their day to me in Spanish after making small-talk about the weather (even if I had no idea what they would be saying, and would have to eventually break the bad news that I didn’t catch any of it).

More than just picking up the language, my everyday routine slowly changed as well. I was enjoying the long lunch breaks and siestas (did not help my napping habit), enjoying the night culture and staying up later than usual and doing the two-cheek kiss greeting everyday even to acquaintances (this didn't translate well when I went back home and forgot the cultural change).

International interns in Madrid, Spain
The amazing interns and now lifelong friends from the Intern Madrid program

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The Intern Madrid staff were a 24/7 support system that were just a message, phone call, or email away. They answered all of my queries speedily, and to the best of their ability. From bakery suggestions to visa-related questions, they made sure all my problems were solved.

Furthermore, aside from their eagerness to help, they were also receptive in receiving feedback on how to improve the internship program in Madrid. If you wanted more social events in the calendar, they implemented them not too long after you spoke. When there were accommodation conflicts, they searched for better and more suitable apartments and areas for the interns. They are always open to take in suggestions, and this is why I would always commend the internship in Madrid and the Intern Group staff.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

If I had to do it again, the one thing I would do differently would be to do it at a different time of the year. Doing it in the summertime, I was fortunate to have many public holidays that allowed me to explore Spain and Europe. On a personal level, the summertime was great for me in seeing many of the social events and activities in the city.

However, if done in another season or another time of the year, I would enjoy going to more professional and career-related events when it’s in the thick of the hustle and bustle of work. Even so, I was exposed to numerous events at my workplace due to my company’s location in the Telefonica Building in Gran Via. In a level filled with start-ups, it was an amazing collaborative and creative hub for entrepreneurs.

I am grateful to have been working there for an extended amount of time, and to be able to make valuable connections within the Madrid start-up culture.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

My day would start with a five-minute walk to work through Gran Via, where I’d sometimes drop by Pans & Company or Starbucks for breakfast. Then get to the office by 10 a.m., and begin working. My internship was a content marketing role – and allowed for a lot of autonomous, creative work. My supervisors, who were extremely nice and trusting, were there to guide me, but also didn’t stay behind my shoulder and left me in peace when it came down to focusing. I’d usually work on one out of several long tables on my laptop doing my tasks at hand.

Some days I would come into the office later, having to film some content for their social media accounts beforehand. A lot of the time, I was scheduling posts and implementing a communications strategy, so I’d be on various news outlets finding relevant and insightful articles related to the culture of my company. I’d also be writing up interviews and blog posts, or video editing. No two days were the same. There were a lot of team-meetings as well, to make sure we were achieving targets and talking about the challenges and successes of our tasks. Some of these meetings were in the form of Ping-Pong matches (an ongoing tournament I devastatingly lost).

Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain
Beautiful scenes from the Temple of Debod

At 12 p.m. it was lunch-time (quite early in the Spanish working culture), and I would often eat with my coworkers and supervisors in the lunchroom and practice my Spanish. This is the time where I felt I was a Madrileño, talking in Spanish and cultivating that close team culture I saw with other startups. A lot of the time I was saying quite peculiar things with my limited Español, but I’m glad it helped me in developing great working relationships and friendships with my team.

At around 5:30 p.m. I’d head home and prepare for the night festivities. I finally understood the need for siestas, as the Spanish love their nightlife and probably don’t get that necessary sleep by the time they get home. Since I lived too dangerously close to Gran Via (main shopping street, hello Primark and H&M), a lot of the time I would window shop or do some grocery shopping at my local DIA. Once reaching my apartment, I’d chat with my flatmates or freshen up for later commitments.

By 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. I was out the door, usually heading to an event Intern Madrid had scheduled. One event was a flamenco dinner with live dancers and music. It was a good time, chatting with other interns, watching the intense Flamenco dancers (and also eyeing where their sweat landed worriedly), and chowing down on some quality Spanish tortilla. After these events, I’d usually hang out with the other interns on our own accord. I discovered an amazing ice cream and sweets place in the hip neighborhood Malasaña and was a local face there coming most nights to order a smoothie. We’d usually take our time talking and would wander around the city center on the main streets, watching buskers and other street attractions.

By midnight (sometimes later) my night would end and I’d be retiring home to sleep off my day at work and all the food I’d eaten (food comas occurred everyday). Each day was long and full of energy, but they’d all hold the best memories I’ve ever made.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time most?

I’m 100% a foodie and live my life vicariously through eating and discussing food. Aside from sightseeing the main monuments of Madrid, I’d be researching the food hotspots of Madrid. At least once a week I needed to get my churros con chocolate fix from Chocolateria San Gines.

One night my flatmate held a dinner at a casual restaurant/bar called Venta El Buscon, which I frequented afterwards for their patatas con tres salsas dish. I loved their customer service and made people dining there feel welcome. I remember always going there and giving high-fives to one employee who would remember to tease me about how I used to pronounce Gracias (I used to say gra-thee-ass).

Aside from my food addiction, in my free time I would travel. During the three months in Madrid, I was able to go to Barcelona twice, Murcia, Morocco, Denmark, and England. Flights to and from Madrid were inexpensive, and that was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up. In my short trips, I travelled with other interns who I befriended and it was amazing to travel with like-minded people; it was definitely a social time for me.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

My accommodation in Madrid wasn’t five star, luxurious, or top-of-the range. However, it was very Spanish, and that is why I loved my apartment. It was a nine-bedroom (yes nine!) apartment located on a street off Gran Via. I have no complaints to this day about my apartment.

I wanted a true, cultural experience, and living in an authentically Spanish apartment was something I appreciated very much.

My apartment had bright green walls, a cute living area and kitchen space, and a long creaky hallway, which was usually filled with clothes drying racks. What I enjoyed most is the fact I had several flat mates and lots of social interactions. I was able to have a caring and fun second family in Madrid with people from different parts of the world, in different stages of their lives. It was a student apartment, so fortunately a cleaner would come multiple times a week to tidy the public areas. And when I’d run into them in the apartment, it was a way to practice my Español as they did not speak English well.

What also was a plus was the location. I was always a five to ten minute walk from everything! From my apartment window I could hear the merrymaking from Orgullo 2016 (pride parade and see all the cyclists and crowd of La Vuelta cycling event. Nothing was far from my reach, and that was the cherry on top.

Donut at Chök the chocolate kitchen in Barcelona, Spain
A bit too happy with my donut discovery at Chök the chocolate kitchen, Barcelona.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

My words of wisdom for all participants in Intern Madrid, would be is: live local! Try your very best to adapt and appreciate the Madrid culture in order to reap an amazing experience. Few interns come to Madrid unwilling to speak Spanish and adjust their lifestyle, and this proves to have impacted their experience. Eat tapas, greet all your coworkers’ good morning, go to a salsa lesson, and get involved!

It is scary, living in a foreign city, where you are not fluent in the local tongue and don’t know anyone. However, Intern Madrid gives you baby steps to integrate into the city, so take those steps and get the most out of it.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

It’s hard not to be impacted by such an exciting experience in your life, and going home, I definitely felt a change. Of course, I have matured. Being able to live and do things for myself, doing my own laundry, making my own food, travelling solo –has helped me to become better at this thing called “adulting.” As a young university graduate, this experience has humbled me, and I have a lot to learn and go through in order to reach success. The global workplace is evolving, and having this international internship has opened my eyes to the possibilities of where I want to head in my career path.

On a personal note, going abroad has taught me to be even more respectful and appreciate of other cultures. It is lovely to see cultures, such as Spanish culture, being retained and preserved well. It has taught me ways of communicating with different sorts of individuals articulately. Generally, I’m not more aware of the cultural differences between Australia and the rest of the world, and able to accept those differences.

Would you recommend The Intern Group to others? Why?

If you’re looking for the best of the best, apply with The Intern Group. They know how to do their jobs well, and plan an international internship that you’ll enjoy wholly. In a time of growth, they offer the most locations compared to other companies providing a similar service. The aspects of your internship which they provide and handle, such as accommodation and activities, are thoughtfully organized and laid out for you. There’s always someone to contact when in doubt, whether you’re in the pre-departure stage, in your internship location, and even after your program has ended.

And most importantly, they find the right role for you. They do their research, conduct visits, check the standards of each possible employer you could work with. and make sure it’s what you want and it’s at a place where you’ll learn and thrive. The standard in which The Intern Group conduct themselves is of the highest quality, and who doesn’t want a high quality service right?