Why did you decide to study abroad with The Intern Group?
Bryce: I was signed up to go on study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico through my school in July when I came across a posting on my schools’ career website page towards the end of April. I was choosing to go to Mexico because I wished to learn Spanish, but after reading the various cities internships were available in through The Intern Group I thought if were able to go to a Spanish speaking country AND complete an internship it would be the best of both worlds.
I watched a few video reviews on the website and after hearing about the experiences previous interns had I decided to reply. After the initial interview I decided I would much rather go to Madrid than Oaxaca so I paid the cancellation fee for my study abroad so I could put my focus into going there.
What made this intern abroad experience unique and special?
Bryce: Prior to going on this study abroad I had never been to Europe so I was pretty excited once my parents dropped me off at the airport and I boarded the plane. Once I got to Madrid and was being transported to my room I realized I really didn’t know what I expected the city to look like.
I had done all types of research for places to eat, things to do, and what clothes to bring, but I never actually spend time looking up what the layout and look of the city actually were. It was pretty cool just being thrown into this large city and trying to figure out how things ran. Getting accustom to some of same routines as the Madrileños and even just being out and about in the city observing everything going around me in this foreign place there were plenty of times when I had the though it my head “Being here right now is so cool!”
How has this experience impacted your future?
Bryce: The experience of Madrid really proved to be beneficial in all aspects of my future; even if in the present I was not realizing it. From a career standpoint, I truly feel interning for Grant Thornton in Madrid really proved to be advantageous once I began looking for internships in the US again. I had previously completed an internship in the financial industry and having a big accounting firm name such as GT and to have it be abroad gave my resume something that serves the perfect purpose of diversification and big name recognition.
Before I had even returned back to the United States I was undergoing internship interviews at big companies and I’m sure having an internship abroad helped me get in the door. On a personal level, I found that from taking the time to interact with native Madrileños gave me a new perspective on things from viewpoints I never would’ve considered. Whenever I could while talking with them I tried to find out as much as I could about their background and try to immerse myself in their culture.
Even when talking with my other friends in The Intern Group Program with me I learned plenty of interesting things about their cultures and the everyday lives they came from and I feel that I now am trying to learn as much about things outside the US as I can where prior to this experience I felt I had no real connection with things going on outside the US.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to future The Intern Group students?
Bryce: One piece of advice I would definitely give to future The Intern Group students would be to try to teach English while in Madrid. Like I previously touched base on I first looked into in to earn extra money because going out every night was starting to take a toll on my bank account and I wanted to return to the US with some money in my pocket. I found a website where people can post they are looking for people to tutor as well as post they are looking for a tutor.
People in Spain tend to seek native English speakers because we are able to speak with a faster pace and it’s believed if you can understand a US speaker and their heavier dialect you will learn much faster. When creating a posting I said I was a native speaker from the US, was looking for someone with a higher level of English to teach, and was charging 15€ an hour.
Within a few hours I had a plethora of responses from people wishing to learn more and start our first session. Going back to the topic of what made my experience unique and special I would put the teaching experience I had near the top of my list. I found someone with a higher level of English already knew how to speak roughly 80% of what an American can speak; they simply needed help with some tough word pronunciations and grammatical understandings similar to that of an early middler schooler. Usually we would meet in a public place such as a bar or restaurant and typically we would eat a meal or have some drinks (usually bought by them) and just talk in English for an hour.
My list “clients” included all different types of people. I helped work on a resume and interview questions with a guy who was an operations engineer at Ernst and Young, but was looking at better jobs requiring English Tests. Though he and I didn’t know it at the time this later proved to be beneficial to me also once I got back into the swing of being interviewed here in the US. I taught a family of doctors and their daughter having sessions with each of them individually. The daughter was learning English through school and needed some reinforcement, and the parents needed to better their English because they were now travelling to English speaking countries and giving presentations.
I taught a young boy who was just picking up English and could also use proper teaching from a native US speaker, and I met with a businessman who needed a higher level of English to better serve his company’s needs. Though I taught plenty others during my time in Madrid this group of people best sums up the different backgrounds and amazing conversations I got to have as I learned about these people and their lives while in turn got to tell them my story. Soon after I began my teaching brigade many of the other Intern Group students began to follow in my footsteps and it became a popular thing people did to both have a more unique experience and make a little side money as well.
Did you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local’s perspective?
Bryce: Throughout my time in Madrid it was interesting to find my mindset changing from that of a tourist visiting a city to that of a resident living in it. The first few weeks I definitely went about the city as a tourist. A group of us from The Intern Group would meet up after work and try to do as many touristy things as could as quickly as possible.
We spent our days walking around the parks, visiting museums, watched a bullfight, etc; all the things you read when you Google what to do in Madrid. As the weeks started to go on I began to realize I had plenty of time to do those things and began to do more residential things. In the US I was accustomed to doing things to stay fit so I found a gym I joined and went to frequently. This opened up a door to another world of locals I befriended.
My mindset also changed from trying all the places listed as the best touristy places to visit to more specific things like finding the best burger joint, because I have a weak spot in my heart for a great hamburger. I stopped coming home and immediately trying to get back out and see all I could. Instead some days I would just hang around with my flat mates and we would just hang out and watch a movie at home so we could all unwind and relax.
I felt once I did this I was more of a local because with a tourist mindset you don’t have time to do things like that because time is always about to run out. One thing I tried to do was go to the same coffee shop on my corner every morning before work. About a month into my program I found I would walk in and he would already know I wanted a coffee with milk and two sugars. I would wake up a little early just to go in to sit and spend time with the owner talking while I drank a cup of coffee.
I found the small things like doing this or noticing myself every morning as being just another person in a suit walking to work amongst a sea of people dressed the same way helped me feel I truly settled into the city.
Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever thing you knew more/less of the language?
Bryce: I had taken 3years of Spanish in high school and a year of Spanish in college so I felt I would be pretty prepared once when it came to speaking the language. For some reason, once I arrived, I seemed to have just blanked and forgotten everything I was taught.
There was definitely a little barrier once I had arrived when it came to ordering food and interacting in shops. One really helpful thing to break through this barrier was the fact that everyone was willing to work with you to overcome your troubles. The people who could not speak English would play a pointing game with you and help figure out eventually what you were trying to accomplish.
The interns prior to my arrival had been there for weeks and months and when I first met them they coolly explained to me they had no real trouble not speaking Spanish when they first arrived and most of them still couldn’t speak a lick of it. Part of my reason of going to Madrid was to learn Spanish though, so I made sure to try to speak it as much as possible.
Due to this, I felt I was quite fluent when it came time to leave after my 10 week stay.I found with the interns that followed after me if they had an interest to learn it they usually found a way to; if they only came to be abroad and didn’t care to learn it that was no problem and they get through their everyday lives without it. In the end what you put into learning the language will ultimately decide what you got out of it.