Jessica Buchberger - 2015 Program Participant

How did you decide to sign up for an international program?

There are so many reasons I decided to apply for an international program! As a business major and in my junior year at Ohio State I knew I needed to find an internship for my last summer in school. Additionally, as a Spanish minor, I knew if I wanted to truly master the language, I needed to immerse myself in it for at least a few months while I still had the chance. As I was searching for the right opportunity for the summer, I came across a flyer in Ohio State’s business school that was promoting global internship opportunities, and they were offering a location in Madrid! It seemed too good to be true.

Visitors at El Retiro park in Madrid, Spain

Four of the We Find interns in front of one of the gardens in El Retiro

After talking with my mom, I committed to the program later that very week. In addition to the practical academic and professional opportunities this international program afforded me, I decided to apply for an international program because I craved the chance to widen my perspective, experience a new way of life, and challenge myself in a way I never had before. I knew that living abroad would not only give me incredible memories and stories that I would cherish for the rest of my life, but it would help me to experience life outside my Ohio bubble.

Born in Cincinnati, I had moved only two hours away to come to school at Ohio State. Living in Madrid meant communicating in a different language, navigating a new country, and learning to assimilate to a culture so completely different than my own. I valued the opportunity to become a global citizen, and experience adventures and trials that would prove to myself just how capable I truly am. The personal growth that I gained from an international program was just as beneficial as the professional growth.

Why did you choose We Find Group in particular?

I chose the We Find Group global internship program because it gave me the opportunity to go abroad, and still gain valuable corporate experience. So many of the programs to go abroad I had found offered amazing class or volunteer options, but We Find Group is unique because it places students with businesses.

I was lucky enough to not only find work within the field of human resources (which is the business specialization I’m pursuing a career in), but also in the industry that I am most interested in: fashion retail and textiles. This internship program was an amazing chance to both see the world and learn what it is like to work in a multi-national corporation. I feel so fortunate to have found an opportunity that blended so many of my passions together in an experience that also helped me to grow so much professionally!

What was your favorite part about Madrid?

It’s hard to pick a single favorite part about the location, because what’s not to love about Madrid? The tapas are amazing- especially the tortilla de españa. The music is lively and upbeat. The language is beautiful. But I think if I had to pick one part, my favorite would be just living in a city that was teeming with life at all hours of the day.

I constantly thought of an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, that poetically states, “I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” It was surreal to live in a place that was just that. There was an infinite newness to Madrid – I think I could live there the rest of my life and never explore all the cafes, rooftops, and parks. The streets are always packed with people rollerblading and playing guitar, you can watch street performers at all hours of the night; you can attend a Real Madrid game, flamenco show, or outdoor movie. And, of course, Madrid is well connected to the rest of Europe- only a quick plane or train ride away from anywhere you’d want to go. Essentially, I loved that Madrid is full of life, and never-ending opportunities to experience something new.

Sunset on the Gran Via in Madrid, Spain

A beautiful Spanish sunset and the view of Gran Via, one block away from my apartment!

What makes interning abroad with We Find Group special?

While I was searching for opportunities abroad, I came across tons of amazing programs for both volunteering and taking classes, but there aren’t many options for students that are looking to gain work experience. Especially looking for a corporate job; it’s tough enough to make those connections and accept a position in America, let alone in a foreign country! The We Find program has done a great job networking with businesses to offer a variety of options to students looking to work and gain experience in an international setting. I accepted a position in human resources, my field of study, as well as within the industry I was most interested in exploring, fashion retail.

The experience was so valuable in shaping my future career aspirations, teaching me valuable lessons about the operations of a multinational corporation, and challenging me to grow outside my comfort zone.

How did the staff at We Find Group support you throughout your time in Spain?

The local staff with We Find Group was amazing! I was unfortunately very sick my first two days in country. I contacted the We Find Group staff for help, and just a short while later they were ready to drive me to the nearest hospital. Not only did they give me a ride, they also stayed with me the full time I was there. We had an orientation dinner that night at a new restaurant downtown, and they waited for me to make sure I had the chance to join the other interns!

A resident director lived with the interns at the apartments, and she was always available and willing to give us recommendations of fun, new places to go, or where the closest grocery stores were, or assist with any problems one might have at work. The We Find Group staff members also started offering Spanish lessons for the interns once a week, at either a beginner or advanced level, to allow those of us interested to have a formal opportunity to practice improving our language skills.

The full We Find Group staff worked very hard to ensure we all had as smooth of a transition as possible to our various offices, even paying personal visits to each of us to check in with both the interns and our bosses on how things were progressing. As the our time was ending, Carlota, the CEO of We Find Group, ensured we all received personalized feedback on our performance, and has stayed in contact with us all and been more than willing to continue to be a resource to the interns once we returned to Ohio.

Beyond professional responsibilities, the We Find Group staff also organized two weekend trips for all of the interns to take together: one to Pamplona, Spain, for the San Fermín festival (also known as the running of the bulls), and the second, a camping and surfing trip to Santander. We Find Group did a wonderful job helping us all feel accustomed to Madrid and closer with one another, so by the time we left, we felt as though we had found a second home. This would never have been possible without all the assistance and guidance from the We Find Group staff!

Interns in Madrid, Spain

Ashley and I outside of Inditex on our last day at work!

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

The first week in-country, most of the interns were eager to plan their weekend trips to different cities. With so many different ideas flying around, and considering the fact that traveling between European countries is relatively cheap and easy, I soon found that I had committed to traveling every weekend we had, except for the very first one. While these trips were a blast and provided a ton of variety in the experiences I was having, after the first month of the program, I felt as though all I had the chance to do thus far in Madrid was go to work and explore the surrounding area of my apartment!

Because I hadn’t saved very much of my free time to explore the city I was living in, I had to start being very intentional with my time after and before work, making sure I got to see everything on my bucket list, saving some time to just wander be lost. Madrid itself was such an incredible place to be; while being able to travel so easily was an incredible experience, I wish I had saved more down time for myself on the weekends to relax and explore the city I was lucky enough to call home.

Describe your average day as a intern in Madrid.

Most mornings, I would wake up and head outside before work around 7:30 a.m.I loved being able to spend some time outside before being in the office all day, and Spain has strange working hours. No one arrived at work until 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., so you had some extra time in the mornings! Everything seems to operate on a delayed schedule compared to our tightly-scheduled American cultures and lives.

So I would go for a quick run in the biggest park in Madird, El Retiro, or grab a café con leche, and head home to shower and make a Spanish breakfast – tostado con mermelada. Ashley, my roommate and an intern at the same company, and I would head out to catch the metro around 8:40. We would walk one block to the main plaza, Sol, where we would catch the Cercanias, or the fast train, and be at the stop for our office only four minutes later!

The street that our office was on ran right into the heart of the downtown business district of Madrid, and was absolutely beautiful: wide, clean streets, all white buildings, a lot of green space, and tons of surrounding shopping and restaurants. Ashley and I would come into the modern, brightly-lit, all-glass and hardwood Inditex office every morning and exchange dozens of “¡Buen Dia!”’s before grabbing the most recent stack of applications and getting to work.

Because we worked in the Talent Acquisition center, every morning, we would spend most of our time reviewing applications that Inditex had received. It was busy season for hiring, as the company needed to fill tons of sales associate and managerial positions for summer sales, and we would process hundreds of applications a day. We would shadow a group interview before lunch, and head down to eat between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. with the other interns, all students at universities in Spain.

After lunch, Ashley and I would work together on various projects, the main one being a project targeting the recruitment of university students in Spain. We actually developed an idea that was implemented on campuses across the country that fall! Because we started later, we also worked later, so we would head home for dinner or go out with our co-workers between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

After dinner, the interns would all normally look for something fun to do to explore the city, like see an outdoor movie, stop by a flamenco show, or check out a local hot spot like Casa Hernanz. The streets would stay packed much later, since everything opened much later in the morning. It was great to feel independent by day as we split off to our respective jobs, but come home to a big group of students equally as excited to spend their free time finding new adventures and trying new things.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

Outside my normal schedule, my favorite activity was getting to know my co-workers. It was incredible to experience so many cultural differences with the other interns I lived and traveled with, but by the end of the trip, what really made Madrid feel like home was the friendships I had developed and the connections I had made with the people I met in Spain.

Through working on various projects together, sitting side by side at our computers, and taking lunch breaks together, we shared laughs helping each other through language barriers and truly got to know one another. The last month of our internship, we even started a tradition of exploring a new restaurant every Wednesday after work. Belen, one of the only interns that had lived in Madrid her whole life, knew tons of unique places to go. We visited rooftop patios, a basement bakery that was beach-themed and had sand all over the floor (not to mention the best cheesecake I’ve ever had), and grocery stores that had beautiful views of Gran Via, the most famous street in Madrid.

While it was incredibly sad to say goodbyes on the last day in the office, it was also rewarding to see how close of friendships we had made in a few short months. I’m thankful for how easy apps and websites like Facebook and Groupme make keeping in touch, and hope to return in the future and be able to see them all again!

How was your accommodation in Madrid? What did you like best about it?

For accommodations, all of the interns lived together in apartments in the middle of the city. The apartment complex was a four-story walk up with a heavy, beautiful wooden door, and there were between four and six interns per apartment. The interior was modern and well kept, including wood floors, a loft, a dishwasher, retro refrigerators, and a bathroom for each bedroom that was shared by two or three people. Each room also had some type of exterior space – even if it was just large sliding doors that opened to a small balcony to hang-dry clothes on and get some fresh air.

The best part about the accommodations, though, was the location. The central plaza in Madrid is called Sol, and we were a mere one-block walk away. This is where most of us would catch the metro in the morning, under a shiny, abstract glass dome, to make it into our offices. All the streets around us were constantly buzzing with people. I loved stopping at the café across the street from our apartment that served churros con chocolate after work on Fridays! Additionally, because we were located so centrally, many of Madrid’s must-see attractions were less than a 15-minute walk away, in one direction or another. There was never a shortage of fun options to explore after work and on the weekends, and we were conveniently located to be able to access it all!

Stadium in Pamplona, Spain

The inside of the stadium in Pamplona, where everyone dressed in red and white ends their run with the bulls during the San Fermin festival

How has your internship abroad with We Find Group left a lasting impact on you personally and professionally?

Now that I’m home, I am so thankful for not only the fun memories and professional growth that this program gave me, but for the continued inspiration it left me with for my future goals and aspirations. The work experience I gained abroad definitely sparked a vision for my future to continue gaining valuable work experience, and eventually to open up a social enterprise of my own one day, to tackle some of the problems you would never even know exist in the world if you haven’t left your hometown comfort zone.

Additionally, I look back with so much gratitude for the experiences I had, and am always reminded of how much beauty remains in the world. Some of my favorite memories are the simplest of moments that happened abroad, that just remind you how big and beautiful the world is, how small you and your problems are, and to be grateful for everything around you. Lastly, being exposed to new perspectives, ways of living, and types of people really encourages you to find and live truly to yourself.

I am more confident in myself now, in what I am capable of, what I hope to accomplish in the future, and in what I value most. The time I spent abroad was not only a blast, but is also potentially the most impactful and transformative experience I had during my time in college.