Student Voices - Interning Abroad as a First-Generation Student

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At IES Abroad and IES Internships, we're proud that our students are as diverse and unique as the programs and internships that they participate in. Twenty-four percent of IES Internships participants are underrepresented, and Christian Canizal (Barcelona, Fall 2017 | Elmhurst College) is one such student. As a senior Communications major with a desire to explore, Christian found that a fall internship in Spain was the perfect fit. 

Diversity Relations Manager Hernando Sevilla-Garcia recently had the chance to interview Christian while he was interning in Barcelona to discuss his road to interning abroad, as well as the ins and outs of his internship placement. Hear what Christian had to say about being a first-generation student abroad, financing his intern abroad experience, and the personal and career benefits of an international internship.

IES Abroad: Why did you decide to do a full-time internship abroad? Who inspired you?

Christian Canizal: Why not? That’s the motto I have taken in my last year as a student. Why not study abroad? Why not immerse myself in a different culture? Why not participate in an internship that will certainly help my professional career?

A couple of unique circumstances arose that gave me the opportunity to do this. Thanks to a couple of courses I took during high school, as well as packing in a few extra classes in my college career, I was on track to graduate early. Unfortunately, a course that I needed to graduate is only offered in the spring, which left my fall semester open. 

IES Abroad: What advice would you give to students who are considering studying abroad vs. interning abroad?

CC: Know your situation. Ask yourself a couple of questions, “Do I need credits to graduate? What courses are offered? Does the internship fit the skills I have/want to learn?” I think these questions, along with others, will help someone determine what they’re looking for.

Growing up is a part of the overall college experience—you mature and start thinking about your professional life as you get closer to the finish line. Adding to my résumé “Study/Intern abroad in Spanish” is something that makes me stand out to employers and companies. I strongly recommend prospective students talk to their families and their advisor to decide what’s best.

IES Abroad: As a Latino, first-generation student, what obstacles have you overcome to make interning abroad a reality? Any tips for other students?

CC: The biggest obstacle I faced was money, as I didn’t study abroad through my school. My biggest advice would be: If students want to study abroad, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., they should talk to their school about studying abroad. I would recommend looking early for potential scholarship offers and making sure with your counselor that your academics are in order.

Also, explain to your parents the significance of what studying abroad can do for your professional career, as well as your personal life. I’m growing everyday as person, expanding my mind, and experiencing how a new culture can change a person.

IES Abroad: Talk about your full-time internship. Who are you interning for? What are some highlights? What are you most excited about?

CC: My internship is amazing; I work for a startup eSports company called The company brings something new to the scene. Unlike other big streaming sites, allows users to have an active experience while on the site. 

The majority of my time, I am content creating, creating videos for social media sites, writing blogs, and creating and posting tweets and Facebook posts. On top of that, every other Friday I present for the company, to potential investors, and my company's higher-ups. So I’m not just doing "intern things".

Working for a startup allows me to have a significant role in the company. The best thing about my internship are my co-workers. They’ve really accepted me in the company, they understand that I’m an intern so they work with me if I have questions, and I consider them friends.

IES Abroad: Discuss your time abroad in Barcelona so far.

CC: There are no words to describe my experience so far. Take a look at the pictures [in the Photo Gallery below].

IES Abroad: What are your future career goals and how has an IES internship contributed to these?

CC: I see myself one day running a revolutionary business. A pioneer, evolving the journalism world because it is slowly dying. My company will primarily focus on creativity while also incorporating journalism skills.

Do you have more questions about what it’s like to study or intern abroad? Contact an IES Internships Ambassador. They’re recent alums with a lot of study abroad and internship expertise, and they volunteer to answer your questions. They’re here to help!

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