Bryn Thomas Evans - 2014 Program Participant

Interns abroad in Colombia

Bryn with co-workers at his internship.

What inspired your decision to intern abroad? 

In today’s globalized world the option to study and work abroad is not only easier, it’s slowly becoming a necessary consideration in our lives. As a political science student this is even truer in a field that offers incredible opportunities across the world, but which are also very competitive. I felt it was important to sample at least some kind of work abroad before I consider a future career.

Why did you choose Colombia for your internship? 

I selected Colombia since South America was something I had yet to experience. I have plenty of experience in Europe, mostly because I’m one fourth Swiss and have family there, and I have visited the U.S. and China, but I have never visited South America. This seemed like a great opportunity to expand my cultural horizons, especially since I knew next to nothing about the city of Medellin, making this all the more of a unique opportunity. 

As for the actual work placement, Parque E, a publicly run business incubator in Medellin, offered me an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I have accumulated in a field of work I might not have previously considered. Education is more than just memorizing knowledge; it’s also about developing life experience and key skills that can be applied in any required situation. Furthermore, you can also apply your knowledge in a less straight forward way than what you might have expected after studying for over three years. This was all true at Parque E, where I was able to apply all three of these into my role. 

It also helped me brush up on old fields that I was familiar with having studied several humanities subjects, in particular Geography, back at college.

Foreign Intern with a Colombian Family

Bryn with Lizeth’s Family.

What was a normal day like interning at Parque E?

It did take some time to start a normal routine as I was only available in the afternoons for the first two weeks (due to a Spanish Language course), so I spent that time familiarizing myself with Parque E; its goals, its methods; and its staff, as well as learning all I could about entrepreneurship both in general and in Antioquia before settling into my assigned role.

My job involved researching many organisations of varying nature (NGO’s, State Departments, Venture Capital funds among others) that were not only in some way involved in entrepreneurship, but were also likely interested in Parque E and its client start-ups. I then had to collect as much key information as possible regarding these organizations (contact details, key details, fields of work, etc.), determine which ones would be most likely to be interested in Parque E, put forward a suggested organization to contact before finally starting the initial communications between them and Parque E. Since this was all very time consuming, and I was only at Parque E for eight weeks, I also had to make sure that all the material was organized in such a way that it could be picked up without issue once I left.

Researching organizations, producing a subsequent database, and writing contacts was most of my work at Parque E, though there was more to it than that. Sometimes there were gaps in between work as it required approval from senior staff, so I would have to wait for them, and would help staff with other tasks during the interim. Furthermore, Parque E runs seminars on entrepreneurship and attends talks and conferences on entrepreneurship so they invited me to attend them to expand my knowledge. 

Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa

What are some of experiences you had in Colombia that you will remember forever? 

Probably experiencing the culture of Medellin and Antioquia in numerous ways. In particular, one of my co-workers, Lizeth, invited me to spend the weekend with her family in the town of San Jeronimo in rural Antioquia. It was really great to experience Colombia in a much more casual manner than I had before, and Lizeth’s friends and family were all great company. I also got to sample the dish Bandeja Paisa which is delicious, though good luck trying to eat it all.

Would you recommend The Intern Group to others? 

Definitely. To put it simply, The Intern Group offers the most valuable experience for the minimal amount of hassle. 

The range of opportunities available to you are extensive, with very significant positions of work and responsibility available to you if you’re prepared for it, all of which will prove invaluable for your own improvement and on a CV. The Intern Group’s opportunities extend beyond just the work place. They organize numerous social events and trips that not only give you the opportunity to meet a lot of great and unique people, but also genuinely learn about Colombia historically, culturally, and even its natural character. It’s very comprehensive and not superficial, as you learn about Colombia and Medellin warts and all.

While traveling abroad, let alone working can be a very daunting prospect, The Intern Group help smooth out the entire process from the application, to traveling, working there, and finally returning and are always offering support when need be. While obviously they’re not going to do everything for you, they’ve created a very efficient and simple system and have definitely hired the right staff to make sure that there are no issues at any point, and that you get the best experience possible. I can honestly say I struggle to think of any true grievance I had against them.

Guatape, Colombia

Some of Colombia’s natural beauty in Guatape.

What important tips can you give to future interns in Colombia? 

Try to give yourself as much time as possible to spend in Colombia. The program is not terribly expensive, and while approximately two months may seem like a lot of time it will go very quickly and you do not know when you will have another such opportunity come around. Definitely try and make the most of it.

Apply sooner rather than later, and give yourself plenty of time between application and the beginning of the program. There are a number of steps in the application process, and key information is required. You do not want to have to rush through it, especially if there are any problems on either end. There can be as much time between application and beginning as you need, so give yourself ample room to prepare. 

Definitely consider the language program regardless of your level of Spanish speaking. It’s not expensive, the staff are very supportive and will assist you individually if need be, and it’s an opportunity to learn a new language or improve upon it. The program is only for two weeks, but there are options to extend it. Even starting at a basic level will give you more than enough of a base towards learning Spanish on your own accord afterwards. Few people speak English in Colombia so this will make working here all the much easier and the experience more enriching. Coming from a country where a second language is rarely taken up, yet is becoming all the more crucial, I cannot begin to stress how good the opportunity is to learn the third most widely spoken language globally. 

Finally, don’t just stop at a good day’s work, try and experience all of Colombia either through the Intern Group or even of your own initiative. As I said earlier, this is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity and a lot of valuable experience to you personally won’t just come from working abroad but also living abroad. Make sure to partake in the numerous social and cultural events the Intern Group arranges. Also, your workplace may offer you events to attend or your co-workers might invite you to their own get-togethers. With this and numerous other considerations, make sure you take advantage of the fact that you are effectively living abroad not just working.