Mount Holyoke students’ international summer internships

Mount Holyoke students are a diverse and eclectic group of individuals, so it comes as no surprise that their summer internships and work experiences were equally diverse, spanning various countries and continents. We spoke to students who worked in Argentina, France, Spain and Belgium over the summer break.

Spain
Julia Godinez '17

This summer, I decided to opt out of a traditional internship or desk job. I made the bold decision to take a job as an au pair in Madrid that I found on what is the equivalent of an online dating site. There were many reasons as to why I chose this route, but my main motivators were convenience and my desire to travel.  

I was studying abroad last semester in Costa Rica, which made searching for internships nearly impossible. The internet was spotty and I was having too much fun to even entertain the idea of a desk job. Studying abroad also reaffirmed that I am genuinely happy while living abroad, so I figured I should spend the summer working abroad. 

Applying to be an au pair was almost as fun as being an au pair. I found that there is a far greater demand for au pairs than there is supply. After I finished my classes in Costa Rica I would sit down and read messages and contracts from potential host families all over the world. I had job offers all the way from Australia to Argentina. I finally selected Madrid because of the location and because I wanted to continue improving my Spanish in a new cultural context. 

Two weeks after leaving Costa Rica, I flew straight to Madrid. My host mother picked me up from the airport and took me to my studio apartment on the third floor of the family’s home. My host family was welcoming and delighted to have an extra set of eyes on their two-year-old son. 

My job was simple and straightforward: I was tasked to play and speak in English with my host family’s son Carlos from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. My contract included room, board, transportation and a living stipend. 

While Carlos was in school, I had free time to explore Madrid. I went to 22 museums, four parks and took four weekend excursions to other parts of Spain. At moments I was suffocated with free time. I realized quickly that it is rather difficult to make friends in a foreign country during traditional work hours. I was only free while everyone was busy “adulting.” Other than my inability to make lasting friendships with people other than my host family, I had a wonderful and transformative experience. 

This was my second time working abroad, and my fourth time being a host child in a foreign country. I thought being an au pair would be an easy and cheap way to travel. However, I did not realize how difficult it would be to make a community for myself since I was alone in a city without planned daytime activities. Working fewer than 20 hours a week was fun, but after a month of constant “fun,” I missed the structure of a traditional job. During my time as an au pair, I learned that I need purpose and stimulation. I realized that having a desk job or internship has benefits well beyond resume experience. That being said, being an au pair is an experience I will never forget. I was able to travel, improve my Spanish, meet a wonderful host family and, most importantly, reflect on what I want and need in a job when I live and work beyond the gates of Mount Holyoke. 

Paris
Jasmine Keuter '18

This summer, I participated in a paid internship program at a film distribution and post-production company called Re:Voir in Paris, France. For two years now, my goal has been to gain fluency in the French language while working in film. As a Romance Languages and Film Studies double major, this was the perfect opportunity for me.

At this enterprise, I worked Monday through Friday juggling tasks from accounting to creating DVDs for newly released films. Re:Voir is one of the largest avant-garde film distributors in the world, so there was a lot to be done each day. I was working in English- and French-speaking environments. This internship helped me improve my organizational skills and punctuality. I had to complete tasks such as creating DVD chapters, watching films in orderto search for any errors in the files, transcribing interviews into English and running around Paris making deliveries. I also had the opportunity to work at the museum Centre Georges Pompidou as a Director of Production. This extra job was through Re:Voir and I was assigned to monitor and fix a 16mm projector in an exhibition that the company I worked for took part in. 

I was living for the first time in a metropolitan city and working every day while trying to learn a new language. I was amazed by how relaxed and collected I began to feel even with the rush of the world around me. Finally, I found true peace within my own company and sense of solitude. In all honesty, I discovered myself. The daily routine of waking up early and walking through the city with my camera in hand became all I knew and wanted. 

I belonged in Paris. I would spend morning until evening working and exploring the city around me, falling more in love each and every day. Through my internship and making friends, French came easily to me, and the next thing I knew, I had become fluent. More importantly, the city brought a passion for photography back into my life. Through working in film and living in an environment booming with art, beauty and people with complex and interesting lives, I discovered my own identity as a woman and an artist. Everyday, there was something new to see and someone new to meet. 

Overall, the experience was both challenging and rewarding in all ways possible. I miss my coworkers dearly. I am thankful to have been a part of such a passionate, talented and determined film community.

Belgium
Julia Kellerbauer '18

My goal for this summer was to identify how international institutions make decisions. I aimed to examine one European institution and was able to get an internship in the office of a Member of the European Parliament, or MEP, in Brussels, Belgium. 

My main tasks included participating in Committee meetings — mainly for the Committees on Development, Budgetary Affairs and Foreign Relations — as well as taking notes and reporting to the MEP that I was working for. The process of putting a bill through parliament is quite fascinating: every member of parliament is allowed to propose a bill draft or make amendments of a draft on which first the responsible committee and, if accepted, the plenary is voted on. Amendments are submitted through a special system through which everyone has access to the proposal and can edit it — it seems like the whole parliament works, just like we students do, on a Google Doc. Due to this process, I had the exciting chance of preparing amendments to three draft proposals and presenting them to the MEP I was working for.

I would like to share three main takeaways from my experience in Brussels. First, I expected that attending a meeting in the EP would feel like being in a rational bubble. In contrast, committees regularly invite outside experts or witnesses in front of which the MEPs have to justify their decisions. For example, just a few days after her arrival inGermany, a Syrian refugee visited the parliament and confronted the MEPs with her story and vehemently insisted on getting a plausible explanation as to why the European Union cannot provide more humanitarian aid for the Syrian crisis. 

Second, although some members of Parliament fall asleep while leading the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, there are still some hard-working and passionate politicians in the EP that try to effect change.

Lastly, there are still many passionate MEPs, assistants and interns whose hearts beat for Europe. However, while I interned when the Brexit referendum was being held, the parliament didn’t seem unified against parties like the UK Independence Party (UKIP) either. Marine Le Pen, president of the National Front, a conservative party in France, was treated as a social phenomena; staff and interns watching the plenary from the stand would storm to the railing and snatch a photo of the famous party leader.

Besides that, the daily business in the parliament is still characterized by diversity — every meeting is translated into at least 12 languages, which not only gives MEPs the opportunity to express their personalities but also depicts the significant degree of autonomy that European Union member states keep even while participating as member states. 

Overall, it was an enriching experience that not only gave me an insight into the functioning of this institution and extended my professional network, but also reaffirmed my strong sentiments towards the European community and its great significance and necessity in order to endure many more decades.

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