Guest Author: Maria Spanos, Intern in London – Spring 2019, Alum of University of New Hampshire
My name is Maria and I’m a recent graduate from the University of New Hampshire participating in the CIS Abroad Intern in London program. Growing up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I have grown to love the outdoors and trying new things. I especially enjoy hiking, cooking, doing yoga, and because I’m from such a small town – traveling. With a love of traveling and exploring new places, I’m so thankful for CIS Abroad. Being able to live and work and London has allowed me to explore a brand new part of the world while putting my degree to use and getting real work experience along the way. I know this is an adventure I will never forget!
Read Maria’s other blog post about her internship placement
Finishing Senior Year
At this time exactly one year ago, I had never pictured myself interning abroad in London. I was just starting the spring semester of my senior year, feeling a sense of sadness and excitement for what was to come in the next few months. I comfortably enjoyed every last minute I had of my college career, blissfully avoiding (ignoring) the fact that it was going to be over in the blink of an eye and I had no idea what I would do when it was done. I’d always had a picture in my head that I would live and work abroad after I graduated, I just had no idea how to actually do it or what my parents think. So, when the last week of April hit, I realized it was probably time to decide what I was going to do with my life after graduation in three weeks.
What to do after graduation?
After a few days and a little bit of panicking, I (randomly) decided I was going to apply to graduate school. This was a HUGE decision that was literally going to shape my entire life and leave me completely broke in the process and I wasn’t even sure if it was what I wanted to do. I repeatedly asked myself, do I really want to go straight into school for another year after spending the better part of my life there already? Was I absolutely sure about this? So many times, and no matter how much I tried to convince myself the answer to these questions was yes, the answer to all of them was no. I ended up applying to three schools, got into each one, and promptly turned them all down.
Deciding to Intern Abroad
Fast forward now to August. I had been having an amazing summer at home. I was visiting my friends, I learned how to bartend, I spent days in the sun and had a genuinely good time. But I’m not sure if I’m just wired to expect some sort of change whenever fall comes around, but it was so strange not getting ready to go back to school, or anywhere. I honestly just felt like something was missing, which was such a confusing and empty feeling.
I have always had a desire to travel and see the world. The only problem for me was that I didn’t want to just hang around in other countries (although that does seem nice for a short time), I wanted to actually be productive and do something. Build my resume, gain work experience, not just sit around.
But how was I supposed to do that? How could I just leave and work in another country? But as I was pondering this thought, it dawned on me that my sister had done an internship abroad in Ireland the summer after she graduated college. Once I finally realized this, immediately asked her what the program was, and quickly googled “CIS Abroad internships.” And lo and behold, CIS Abroad Intern in London was one of the first programs to come up.
Living in London
The rest is really history so let me fast forward to this moment right now. I arrived in London just about a month ago. I’m currently in my flat, which is more like a townhouse, in Kilburn.
Watch the video I made where I give a tour of my flat to see what our housing is like.
I live with seven other people, one being my roommate who is also a CIS Abroad intern, and six other study abroad students in different programs. Naturally, when you live with that many people, you are going to face difficulties and find differences that are going to annoy you. But rather than looking at the situation from a negative perspective, I’ve made the conscious effort to look at this in a positive light.
It’s true when they say that the most uncomfortable situations are the ones that define us, that test our strengths and make us who we are. I’ve found that it’s so important to accept that just because someone thinks or acts differently than you, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. Whether you like it or not, the people you live with have a HUGE impact on your experience abroad. So, I’m constantly reminding myself to stay open-minded, ask them questions, speak up when something is bothering me, and try not to take everything personally.
I feel that same advice can be applied in so many aspects of life, especially at work.
The First Day at My Internship
Being so extremely nervous for the first day of my internship really made me understand just how important it was to me. If I wasn’t nervous for my first day, for this entire experience actually, would it really be worth it? What’s the point in escaping your comfort zone just to fall back into it? Walking into work on the first day with my heart racing and so many thoughts running through my head like will my boss like me? What if I mess up really bad? Definitely added stress, but looking back at just a few short weeks ago, I can’t believe I ever worried.
The company I’m interning with is a global enterprise with their headquarters in the US and locations around the world. I honestly feel so lucky to have been placed with this company, first because every person I’ve met has been so genuinely nice, but also because I already feel as though I am learning so much. My boss and my co-workers don’t treat me like an intern, they treat me like I’ve been working with them for years. They understand my limitations, but challenge them and give me real tasks and projects that I will actually be able to work on the entire time I am here and be able to see to fruition.
In addition to enjoying the work that I’m doing, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to Amsterdam and Frankfurt with them to visit two of their other locations. To be honest I was so shocked but so grateful that they were actually taking me along because I was never expecting to be this involved. I have always felt a need to travel and work in a company that would allow me to do so, (even if it’s only for a few meetings) so this small experience meant so much. As of right now, I can already see myself working in a similar position to the one I am in.