Brielle Drelick - 2015 Program Participant

Eating traditional Naples-style pizza in Italy

Enjoying some traditional Naples-style pizza!

Why did you decide to intern abroad?

I wanted a challenge. I've worked since I've been of age and I was an upcoming senior so I knew I needed an internship. Working abroad in a country where I didn't speak the language was one of the best challenges I could think of to prepare me for employment after graduation. Plus, there is a HUGE world out there with so much to offer. It's naive to think the only opportunities are in the U.S.

When you leave [your home country], you truly reflect on your personal life at a much deeper level, which allows you to grow as an individual.

They say that your twenties are your selfish years, and they should be; you have to figure yourself out to be the best YOU you can be, for yourself and for others. Going abroad in my opinion is the most fulfilling way to do that.

Why did you choose IES Internships?

Like I mentioned I was entering into the summer before my senior year and I hadn't had an internship yet, so that was my top priority. Second, I had always wanted to do a whole semester abroad but after seeing the prices I quickly realized that would never be an option for me. The summer program was about $10,000 cheaper, so it was a no brainer. IES Abroad offers a wide range of countries and cities to visit for both semester and summer programs.

How did you decide on an internship in Milan?

My second language is Spanish so I originally wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country. I researched a few places, but as an advertising major I really needed an urban, commercial city. London was an option, but another English speaking country wouldn't have given me the challenge I was aiming for.

I settled on Milan, Italy, which was a brand new location for IES Abroad at the time. Milan is a fashion capital, very posh and very urban. I highly recommend Milan for any students in the following fields of study: fashion, business, arts, music, marketing, journalism, public relations, and literature. It's in a great location in northern Italy, making travel very convenient to surrounding countries, and there are PLENTY (France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia).

SnapChat photo in Milan, Italy

MaVi and I made it onto the Milan live feed on SnapChat one night!

What was your favorite part about Milan?

My favorite part about living in Milan was the diversity, although my university is also extremely diverse. Indiana University holds 45,000 students and counting, with faculty and students both from all over the world. I prefer to surround myself with diversity and I like to feel as if I'm near to other parts of the world. Milan is home to many different races and ethnicities, and with this comes a wide range of interesting music styles, cool fashion, delicious foods, and unique traditions and practices. There was never a dull moment there and I saw something different almost every day.

What aspects of your internship program made it unique?

The staff at IES Abroad was truly caring, and they were passionate about keeping all of us taken care of so we felt comfortable and happy. My computer actually crashed the second day I got there; TRAGEDY! One of the staff members took it upon himself to get it fixed and had me leave the computer with him. He handled all of the calls to Dell'italia because I didn't speak Italian. Three days without my computer put me behind in my classes and first days of my internship; I was so stressed. But after working on it himself, having the IES Abroad repair man look at it, and finally having Dell provide a new part, he was able to get it running again. He even gave me his Italian charger that plugged directly into my computer and the wall outlet (I was using a converter since American and European outlets are different shapes). He truly went beyond customer service and beyond his job title to fix my computer.

I was so grateful, because being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language or know your way around OR have easy, independent transportation makes it difficult to handle those types of issues when they do arise. I could speak just as highly about the rest of the staff there. All of them were so accommodating!

How else did local staff support you throughout your program?

The internship and classroom staff all had a "doors open" policy which was relieving to know you had at least someone to go and talk to. I loved that my language professor taught us survival phrases and vocabulary first to help us get around, such as words to know for the grocery store, restaurants, cafes, and emergencies.

Also, my Italian roommate was fantastic and we're still in touch today! Not only did she know a lot about Italy and was able to teach us things, but she was fun and so kind. She cooked for us, showed us around the city, introduced us to her friends, and was constantly asking us how our internships were going. She was a friend and backbone for all of us.

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

I wish so badly that I would have lived with a host family! I wasn't able to for my program. But in saying that, I loved the apartment I was put in. It was traditional style, which reminded me everyday I was in Italy and I admired that. In my bedroom were two giant, wooden shutters that I opened every morning when I woke up to let the Italian sunshine in. In our kitchen was a ceiling to floor door that opened out onto a small balcony, also with two giant, wooden shutters that we regularly kept open. It was free, simple, and tranquil.

Even though I didn't live with a host family, I was extremely lucky to work with a supervisor at my internship who lived at home and regularly invited me over for dinners on the weekends! My boss was incredibly nice, caring, and fun! He lived with his parents and brother. I attended many dinners and lunches at their house in the countryside of Milan. Lasagna, steaks, swordfish, shrimp, lobster, pasta, sun dried tomatoes, sausage, even homemade tiramisu one night! His whole family kind of took me in and treated me as an honorary guest every night. I was truly blessed to spend my time with such welcoming and loving people. If you have the opportunity to live with a family I would do it.

American interns at a bar in Milan, Italy

If you're not working, you're enjoying yourself (aka. Clubs, food, the beach, shopping); take your pick in Milan!

Describe a day in the life of your internship.

In the mornings I would get ready for my day and usually eat breakfast at home because I was tight on money. My roommates would sometimes grab a brioche and espresso at the corner cafe on our way to class. Then we would go to class and most people went home after to eat lunch before heading to work. I would often pack a lunch and just head straight there. I had a little bit of a commute to my job, because I had to take the bus from my classroom to the train station and then take the train to Bovisa, where I had about a five minute walk from the Bovisa train station to my office.

I'd get to the office around 1 p.m. and leave anywhere between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. What I loved about the Italian work culture is they take a lot more breaks than Americans. Even in the short five or so hours of my work day, I would normally take two coffee breaks (espresso of course). Italians love their down time!

Leaving the office, if I didn't take the train back home my colleagues and I would go to a bar for aperitif, which is casual drinks and food! I wasn't lying about the down time. Then, if I was feeling up to it when I got home, I would go for a jog around the park next to my apartment. Italians don't just jog around the streets like we do in America, only inside a gym or at a park.

What was your favorite thing to do on your free time?

The aperitivos were my favorite. It was a way to unwind from the day, meet new people, and enjoy great food and drink with good company. Italians are social so a lot of people are out, and most of the time they were outside, which was nice. For me, being a foreigner, it was a great opportunity for to get to know my colleagues and for them to get to know me. We grew really close spending time together outside of the office. And did I mention your first drink gets you all the free food you want? So yes, I spent my time at aperitivos any chance I got!

What did you like best about your accommodation? 

I had four other American roommates, which at first I was a little upset about because I wanted to be totally immersed in the Italian culture. But from day one I was really relieved that they were with me because it was nice having someone to talk to! I love to talk, so walking to class or getting a gelato without being able to really speak to anyone was lonely. We did a lot of sightseeing together too. There was always a friend to grab and go on an adventure with!

Selfie in Milan, Italy

My boss, me, and our colleague on my last night in Milan <3

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

Oh trip has forever changed me and impacted my life in many ways. I would say first that hearing people from foreign countries speak about the United States was extremely interesting and I enjoyed hearing their point of views. I'm someone who believes in the importance of foreign affairs, so interacting with them and just learning new ways of doing things was so rewarding for me. The way they cook, do their laundry, drive, eat, pay taxes, buy groceries, attend school, everything was a learning point. Just seeing that and remembering, "Hey, there isn't just one way to do that!" is so important for people to experience.

I can't put into words how much I fell in love with the simplicity of Italy.

I lived a fairly frugal and simple life at home, but Italy was another story. Sure, they don't have all of the technology we use and not everyone drives a car, but they're still living. They're thriving more so than us because in their lifestyle things are appreciated. When you have to put more effort into things that's an emotional thing. Now back at home I pay more attention to other people's efforts.

I've always had aspirations to travel the world and this program allowed me to travel for the first time out of the country. It was one small introduction to how I want to spend my years to come. I catch myself at times smiling, remembering my time abroad and knowing I was so far away yet so close to where I am now.

Through this program, I was able to see what I already knew: that people are just people. We are all the same, and there are so many wonderful people in this world. My life was impacted through the people I met there. And as I look around at the people by my side at home, I see the same genuine light in them. The thought of all the people in the world coming together for one big aperitivo is maybe too complex of a dream, but it's satisfying enough knowing that no matter where I go, the love will be there. You just have to be willing enough to open your heart and your mind to it in all people.