While catching the 87 bus home from my last day at Sala 1, a contemporary art exhibition space in Rome, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of gratitude and pride: Pride that I had forced myself to do something so scary and so new that speaking Italian at a cafe seemed like nothing, and gratitude for this internship that made me learn how to take the bus on which I stood confidently, having mastered the art of what I like to call bus-balancing. My ride home from the San Giovanni area was a bittersweet one because I realized it was the last time I would be coming home from work, but it was also a moment to reflect and realize how this part-time internship personalized my study abroad experience in a way that I never expected.
I think lots of people get turned off by the idea of a part-time internship because they might want to focus on having free time to explore in their new home, they don’t want to work abroad, or because it’s nerve-racking. I say these reasons specifically because they are exactly what went through my head before I applied for an internship position. Now that I’m on the other side of the internship, I can say that all of these worries are all valid, but they definitely shouldn’t stop you from doing it. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would have enjoyed my study abroad experience as much as I did if it weren’t for my internship. Okay, still not convinced? Here’s five solid reasons why you should do an internship while abroad.
Pop the American bubble.
At a center-based program like IES Abroad, it’s really cool and helpful to be surrounded by other English-speaking students and professors from all over the world. But sometimes this American bubble can hinder the experience of exploring the local culture and people. The part-time internship forces you to speak and work with local people and adopt their routines and pace. While interning, you get exposed to so many fun little phrases, and for an Italian internship, you get to learn a lot of the hand gestures (the good and the bad ones!)
Gain unique work experience.
Prior to doing this internship I had no experience in the art industry, so I didn’t know what to expect. Doing this internship exposed me to networking with artists and other curators in Rome. I also was tasked to go to different small contemporary art exhibits around Rome which I never would have done if it weren’t for this internship. I also got practical work experience like managing the social media accounts for the gallery, writing emails, and sending out invitations to events that I can put on my resume.
My favorite experience has been helping with the opening of the most recent show with American artist Stacy Waddell. Her work is beautiful and really thought-provoking, and it was an honor to meet such an accomplished artist who was also American. When she arrived, I helped her set up her piece in the space, sent out invitations to American associations in Rome, and greeted people at her opening. It was such a cool time and a night that I won’t forget.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable (and have a fun story to share later).
I would be lying if I said the internship was a smooth experience. There were lots of times where I questioned if doing an internship was the right decision, but it was only in times of difficulty that I resorted to apprehension. Throughout the semester, I got lost trying to get to different art galleries, I would be misunderstood when I tried to speak Italian, and would be late to my shift because of the late bus schedule. These were stressful experiences, but I learned more from these difficult times than when things went smoothly. I learned more about myself and how to work through problems independently.
Learn the public transportation system.
My internship was far away from both the center and my apartment, so I was forced to get a bus pass and learn the metro and bus systems. If it weren’t for my internship, I would probably have never tried to take the Roman bus. Even though it has its shortcomings and isn’t always on time, I really appreciate being able to learn the system and feel like I’m part of the city. Not only this, but learning to take the bus or subway to my internship made it really easy to get around on the weekends or when I needed to get to field studies.
Be exposed to a new language.
Doing an internship in Italy exposed me to hearing the local language in lengthy conversations almost everyday. My boss is an American woman who’s lived in Rome for a while, but the rest of my coworkers are from Italy. Besides one of my friends, Alessia, no one knew how to speak English. This really forced me to learn Italian or try to speak with the Italian that I know. Because of this internship, my listening comprehension of Italian has gotten so much better and my confidence in speaking Italian has grown. Because of it, I feel confident enough to order at a restaurant or strike up a conversation with a clerk at a store. I felt really uncomfortable and out of place the first few weeks, but it did really get better after I forced myself to adapt to the work culture and try to communicate with my coworkers. Even though my Italian is terrible, they really appreciated my effort which made me feel much better!
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Hi! My name is Mia and I'm a junior at Occidental College studying Sociology and Art History. I’m from Kailua, Hawaiʻi and love to surf, practice yoga, roller-skate and listen to music! I’m so excited to be studying abroad in Rome for the Fall 2022 semester and can’t wait to experience life in Italy. I’ve got a passion for writing about culture, art and style and can’t wait to explore these interests during my time abroad.