Alumni Spotlight: Patrick Fava


Why did you decide to intern abroad with Australia Internships in Australia?

Patrick: At the end of my Masters’ here in Australia I knew that gaining some work experience prior to applying for ‘real’ jobs would be a nice plus (I didn’t have to do any internship as part of my studies). I was also feeling like there were still a few things undone for me here, and I knew that leaving the country would make coming back later more difficult. Finally, considering the industry I wanted to start in (aviation), I knew that the choice for me was either going back home for an internship based in a big city and paid at the government-imposed mandatory minimum, which would barely have covered rent, or take a loan and find an unpaid internship in Australia, where the cost of living was not as high back then and where the employment market was more dynamic.

I contacted Australia Internships as they were based in Brisbane (where I had studied) and they were still virtually the only company in Australia offering internships at that time (back in ’06 employers had to be explained what an internship was and how the absence of cash compensation was acceptable to some people at the start of their career). When we met I really felt like I could trust them – and more importantly they trusted I would do a good intern.

What made this experience unique and special?

Patrick: Firstly, I ended up working on a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ type of project (when I signed with my host company I didn’t know what I would be put on as it was still confidential to the general public). Many people will do a career wishing they are part of such a project – and possibly never have a chance to, when it was what I started mine with.

Secondly, the host company I interned with was a really good one to work at, so much that I am still with them 8 years later and that they have been winning many ‘employer of choice’ -type awards over the last few years. Australia Internships did a great job understanding who I was and what I wanted, and finding the best placement for me.

Lastly, I connected very well with the people at Australia Internships, so much that they invited me to one of their ‘team retreats’ to share my experience at the end of my internship and that I am still friends with a couple of their staff.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc.)

Patrick: From a personal perspective, I feel like I grew much faster doing an internship overseas. Experiences are more mind-broadening and emotions tend to be more intense when far from home, in a new and different environment.

Professionally, well, the fact that I have only had 1 employer to date (this company I did my internship with) should indicate how good a placement it was. Clearly I am one of the very lucky ones, but at the end of my internship my company sponsored me a temporary visa, then a permanent visa when I became eligible to apply for it, and 8 years later I am still with them enjoying what I do. As the company has been growing quite fast I have also had the chance to go up the corporate ladder several times.

Finally, from an academic point-of-view, (shame on me but) I never got to complete my degree. I started my internship with a thesis to submit but instead of working on 2 fronts I chose to focus on my internship, then job; work hard, and progressively put myself in a position where a degree is no longer a ‘must’. Somewhat risky, but I definitely don’t regret it now (and I could always have done my thesis after my internship had I had to go back to my home country).

What was the highlight of your experience?

It will only half answer the question, but my answer is: “what the experience enabled”. Indeed, when I completed my internship, not only did I get sponsored a visa and became a permanent employee, but I was put on an even more interesting, even rarer kind of project.

On a less personal note, a highlight was this discussion I had with Australia Internships about the future of internships in Australia. The Australian government is (at least was) keeping a close eye on what was something quite new back then, working closely with companies like Australia Internships, and my recommendation to them was to be careful with how much and how rapidly employers could come to like unpaid interns.

I believe what happens these days in Australia is still under control, that employers do not abuse of skilled (overseas) students ready to work hard to start their career and that the quality of internships available in the country has been maintained.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Australia?

Patrick: “Just do it!” If you are sure you want to gain some experience in a developed, Western country, then Australia has one of the most dynamic markets in the Western world and the odds you get a great internship are high. As not everything should always be ‘pink’ in life, I also recommend that during your time here you think about whether the kind of life you can have here is really the one you want – it can be so sweet that sometimes it can make you forget more ‘real’ things.