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Adelante Abroad - Internships in Madrid
Alexandra just graduated with a BA in Spanish and decided during her summer break to return to Madrid for an internship at an immigration law firm. She attends law school in Texas now and so this segue into the legal field through the internship in Madrid was a perfect summer of learning, relaxing, exploring, and traveling.
Why did you decide to intern abroad with Adelante in Madrid?
Lexie: I just graduated college in May and was going into law school this fall and they had an internship in the legal field in Madrid so that was the perfect time and opportunity for me. I had already been to Madrid and am proficient in Spanish so I wanted to go back there over other options.
What made this experience unique and special?
Lexie: I lived in a huge apartment with my own room with university students my age and had no host family so I was really independent. Also, I got to know my coworkers really well and converse with them in Spanish and see what they could teach me about the law and life. This experience was already beyond what I could have gained from say taking university classes abroad with students I may already know and be tempted to speak English with.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Lexie: This is the best thing I could put on my resume and the best summer of my life. I gained so many friends and contacts from the experience and maybe a possible job opportunity later on. I became more independent. It took my Spanish to a higher level.
What was the highlight of your experience?
Lexie: Thanks in part to my coworkers, I got to attend a few great events with locals that a tourist would never know about...I attended a Spanish-speaking theater production that a fellow coworker was a part of in Lavapies (a very non-tourist neighborhood of Madrid) Bernabeu stadium (Real Madrid stadium) for an after work party with cocktails and DJs.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Madrid?
Lexie: Save up your money and do it. No questions asked. Do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Why did you decide to intern abroad with Adelante Abroad in Madrid?
Soph: I decided to intern with Adelante because I was looking for an internship in psychology and social work, and after finding no luck in my own city (London) I found this guarantee of a work placement through Adelante, with the added excitement of it being in a foreign country. I needed to learn Spanish fairly intensively in the 6 months prior to the internship, but I found it was excellent motivation to learn another language - another fantastic life skill.
What made this internship experience unique and special?
Soph: The price was very cheap considering how much I received. The first two weeks included a 40-hour Spanish course in small classes of up to 10 people. These were very enjoyable and had a great teaching environment. The accommodation was brilliant - I could not have stayed more centrally within Madrid and the apartment was very spacious and clean. You get used to the street noise after a while! After those two weeks, you were granted complete freedom to organize and debate your work schedule with your internship boss, and do whatever you wanted in your free time - so the experience is completely what you want to make of it!
How has this experience impacted your future?
Soph: I have experience in living on my own and being completely responsible for myself. I tried out two internships during my 4 month stay - one better than the other. I have received contacts within the psychological field that I can call on for references and even future work alongside having great experience in both the private practices and government funded youth centers. This information will help me guide my future job searching as I have a clearer idea of what I do and don't enjoy. Not to mention how much my Spanish improved! I now also have a second language that I enjoy speaking and will definitely continue studying now that I am home. I also feel I am a more worldly and self-confident person because of the trip.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Madrid?
Soph: The internship is completely what you make of it. So it's up to you if you have a proper cultural immersion and do lots of things, or if you stay in your room and speak to friends on Skype. It is really easy to fall into an international crowd and spend the whole of your time when you are not in work speaking English. But you might regret this when you get home. Try to make friends who speak Spanish - it will be difficult at first but will get easier and you will feel like you are making the most out of your experience. They will also be the ones to ask for the best tapas bars and places to go that aren't a tourist trap. Say "yes" to every opportunity. I discovered that I enjoyed Swing Dancing will I was in Madrid, and I'm going to continue with it now I'm home. So try make the most of every day and do as the Spaniards do!
GO: Why did you decide to intern with Adelante Abroad in Madrid?
Ian: I began taking Spanish classes in 7th grade and loved it from the start. I immediately knew that I wanted my future career to somehow involve travel and the ability to speak a foreign language. What made that idea concrete, however, was four years later when I decided to participate in a two-week exchange program with Spanish high school students from Madrid. It was my first trip to Europe, and to say I fell in love with it would be a major understatement. After high school, I enrolled at a small liberal arts school in Florida and chose to double major in International Relations and Spanish. This, fortunately, presented me with the opportunity to study abroad for two consecutive summers in Madrid, taking courses at an intensive language institute in the heart of the city. Madrid truly began to feel like home for me. The people, the food, the architecture and laid-back lifestyle all fascinated me. Plus, who doesn't want to sleep in and get to take a siesta every afternoon? So, after graduating from college in 2010, I began searching for a way to return to Madrid where my journey first started. I hoped to find a program that would allow me to improve the fluency of my Spanish and garner some foreign work experience. Adelante turned out to be exactly the program I was looking for.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as an intern.
Ian: Working in Madrid was definitely an interesting experience in that the laid-back Spanish work attitude was something very different from what we are accustomed to in the United States. I initially began working as a research analyst at one of the largest and most reputable publicity companies in Spain. Although my job required a lot of tedious work, the office atmosphere and my coworkers were so relaxed that it was virtually stress-free. On a typical day I would wake and up and get ready around 9:00 AM, grab a cafe cortado at a local restaurant and hop on the metro to the Chamartin train station in the north of the city. From there, I would take a 40-minute train ride to a small town called Pinar de las Rosas where my office was headquartered. The commute to work would take a little over an hour, but the scenic train ride through beautiful countryside made it pass in no time. As an intern, I worked from 10:30 to 2:30 and then took the train back into Madrid.
For the second part of my stay in Madrid I worked as a market researcher and translator for a global consulting company. My new job required me to work the same hours as before, but was conveniently located within walking distance from my apartment. This meant that I was fortunate enough to have nearly an entire day to meet up with friends and explore the city after work. Madrid has an endless array of museums and parks to visit (like El Museo del Prado, La Reina Sofia and El Parque del Retiro), new and delicious restaurants to try and tons of friendly and interesting locals to meet. There was never a dull moment during my stay. Typically, my roommates and I would make dinner together at home on weeknights and dine out in our favorite neighborhoods, or barrios, on the weekends. For those of you considering studying or interning in Madrid, I would recommend checking out La Latina, Serrano or Chueca as great places to grab a drink or tapas with friends. Honestly, though, I would try to explore as many new places as possible. Madrid is amazing in that it's Spain's most populous city but doesn't feel so large that it's overwhelming. Plus, their public transportation system is clean, easy and inexpensive which makes getting around a breeze.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Ian: Interning abroad through Adelante was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself both personally and professionally. In Madrid, I made some amazing friendships and met some incredible people that I know will be a part of my life forever. It's sad to think we're all so far away from each other now, but at least I have a great excuse to visit them in some fascinating places like London, Edinburgh, Budapest, Melbourne, Berlin, Milan and San Francisco just to name a few! It's awesome to think I have so many friends all over the world. I learned so much from all of the remarkable people I got to know in Madrid and I wouldn't trade the opportunity to have had met them for the world. My experience with Adelante has also directly affected my professional life.
I knew that once I returned to the U.S. I wanted to take a job that would allow me to continue using my Spanish speaking skills. I did some research and got into contact with a really amazing Non-Profit in Washington, D.C. called the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). Ultimately, my overseas work experience and Spanish speaking ability helped me land a job with them as the only non-native speaker in the office. Here, I am part of an amazing and dedicated team of researchers and writers who are currently working on a national campaign entitled Trabajadoras. This campaign focuses on confronting labor issues that Latina workers in the United States are facing today by educating the public and providing policy recommendations for legislation concerning immigration and worker's rights. (If you`re interested in following our work progress or joining the cause you can at www.lclaa.org!) This job has also presented me with the really cool and rare opportunity to be a published author. I honestly don't know if I would be in this fortunate position had I not decided to work abroad. Interning through Adelante has helped me develop professionally and establish some amazing connections and friendships all over the world. I can't stress enough how life-changing this experience has been for me. Adelante has opened so many doors for me and positively changed my perspective on life and work for good. For those of you who are on the fence of deciding whether or not to study or work abroad, I say go for it! You have nothing to lose and literally the WORLD to gain!
Angel Luis Pinuela: Angel attended the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, receiving his undergraduate degree in Hispanic Philology, and later his masters in Art History. During his Masters program he began working at a language school in Madrid, and at that time there were only 5 or 6 teachers teaching Spanish to foreigners. Angel is currently the President of FEDELE and is intimately involved with getting language schools in Spain accredited nationally. Education and the relation to language learning and working with people new to Spain is his passion.
Antonio Pallares Huertas: Mr. Pallares is a retired Professor of Economics from a post graduate School of Business in Madrid. Part of his curriculum at the Polytechnic University was requiring that his Spanish students participate in external internships. Therefore, he has a deep and diverse list of companies in Madrid that are accustomed to receiving interns from him. During his 10 year long tenure with Adelante, he is constantly growing this list of companies to truly customize each candidate's program. Antonio is a very typical, traditional Madrileno, wearing a suit and tie most days and speaking fast and with lots of colloquialisms! He provides both professional and emotional support as needed, working primarily to ensure that our candidates really engage and enjoy their new life and time with us in Madrid.
What makes interning in Madrid a unique experience for participants?
Antonio: This is the crown jewel of the Adelante Intern Abroad programs, the longest running and with the most participating companies and degree fields represented. Our team is seasoned - I am born and raised in Madrid and have been with Adelante for 10 years, the Director of Programs, for 13 years. What is unique is simple to answer: We treat the candidates with respect, professionalism and care.
What can you tell us about the workplace culture in Madrid?
Antonio & Angel: Interns will be given a good orientation to help them assimilate and there are definitely cultural differences! (For example, it is expected that you might arrive late some days, due to traffic or metro issues, and it is also expected that you will stay late some days if a project delays or there is more work to be done by a deadline.) There is a great desire to intern in corporations here as it has been proven that it is a "bridge" to full time work later on.
What level of Spanish proficiency should interns have when considering this internship?
Antonio & Angel: For shorter term programs (1 to 3 months): Low intermediate at very minimum, and use the first weeks in the included Intensive Spanish Language module to get to solid intermediate. For longer term programs, (5 to 6 months): A lower level is acceptable since the company knows that as time goes on your level will improve dramatically since you are living and working in Spain, using public transport, shopping, going to the bank, out at night, etc., it is automatic! Prior work experience is not required, however in some fields like engineering or law, that should be what the field of Studies is at university level.
What are some extra-curricular activities participants enjoy while interning in Madrid?
Antonio & Angel: Madrid is the epicenter and heart of Spain, so very easy to get most anywhere now. Viajes a Toledo, Segovia, Avila y visitas a los museos de Madrid are some examples of included excursions and activities. City tours, tapas tours and the very popular Lunch with your Teacher - all take place during the first two weeks of the program, before the internship starts.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Spain?
Antonio & Angel: That you are demanding of yourself during this time. That you focus your interest on things like punctuality, being a grand observer with questions always ready, that you are willing to do some small jobs to perfection knowing that this will earn your way to bigger projects later on & making an effort to become friends with and part of the team at your work assignment.
Anything else you would like to share?
Antonio & Angel: Madrid welcomes interns! It is a city of many cultures and thought processes, open to new and also loving the old. Interns that are the most successful are those that come to work, not just to vacation, and know the connection between the cost of this to them & their family and the value it can give them, if they do it right, for future work/career prospects.
What were you doing in 1999? That is when Adelante Abroad sent its first candidate to Madrid, Spain, to do an International Internship Program there. She participated in a 6 month program, in a graphic design internship with a mid-sized company and lived, at first, on her own in a great little downtown apartment. By the following month we sent over two more candidates and have never looked back.
Internship, Semester & Summer Study, Teach and Volunteer Abroad programs define our menu of offerings and expertise now. Yes, you have your own room in a central, shared apartment, but meals are typically not included because we want you to grocery shop in your new country. Yes, we have staff on site full time but do they call you every day to check in? Nope. They are there if you need them but are trained to give you space to bump into things, make mistakes and finally find, on your own, how you fit in to your new country & home.