Advice and tips for interning in Barcelona
Elliott at Camp Nou
Elliott is studying Spanish and PR at Leeds Met, and is spending his year abroad doing internships in Barcelona. He is currently on his second placement, and has learnt a lot during his time there! Here is his advice about placement-hunting, finding somewhere to live with other students, gritting your teeth and speaking to your employer if things aren't going according to plan, and his top tips.
- Choosing an Internship over a Language Assistantship
- Deciding where to go
- My internship options
- Job-hunting in Barcelona
- Arriving in the city
- The first week
- When your internship doesn't go according to plan...
- Finding accommodation with other students
- Internship highs and lows
- New placement - new opportunities!
- My Advice
Choosing an Internship over a Language AssistantshipMy initial choice to do a work placement, rather than a study placement or language assistantship was made on the basis of gaining some industry experience (something I keep firmly in mind when I wake up at 8am every day). The extremely well paid language assistantship was tempting to begin with but my lack of patience and both my parents being teachers deterred me from entering the world of education.
Deciding where to goUpon making my choice to do an internship rather than the other two options, I was relatively proactive about sorting something out. At first I explored the possibilities of going to South America but was quickly put off when I learnt that the Erasmus grant is not given to those outside the EU, and the price of flights! There were a couple of places in Spain that I was interested in, although Barcelona stood out from the crowd; the skateboarding mecca of Europe surrounded by modernist architecture on the Mediterranean coast… couldn´t get much better really.
My internship optionsI began by speaking to my year abroad coordinator about internship options that were available. I was disappointed to learn that a lot of internship links held by my university were within the catering or hotel sector; a sector that I have worked in part time for a number of years and know that it is not the career I am pursuing. I immediately dismissed this with the intention of finding a placement with a company more tailored to my degree.
Job-hunting in BarcelonaI then started searching the internet for marketing and advertising companies in Barcelona that offered internships which, to my surprise, were in abundance. I began sending out Spanish CVs that outlined my 'cross cultural capabilities' to the biggest companies with the outlook of 'start at the top'. After only sending out a handful of CVs, I began receiving replies - some that interested me, some that didn't. One of the companies that jumped out at me was an events organisation and marketing company who had previously worked with Ferrari, Buggati and L'Oreal, to name just a few. I quickly began my correspondence with the director of the company and had a telephone interview within the week. Upon receiving the email to say I had been offered the position, I hastily signed the contract without dwelling on the 9-6.30 working hours and the €300 salary...error.
Before making the move to Barcelona, 3 friends and I went on a 4-week inter-railing skate trip around Europe; a trip that took us to Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague and Munich. When planning the trip I already knew that I had to be in work in Barcelona on the 3rd September so thought it pointless to return to England, only to have to return to Europe. Thus, I decided to go straight from Munich to Barcelona with only a rucksack of dirty, ripped clothes and a skateboard.
Arriving in the cityI had organised a 1-month rent for an apartment prior to leaving England through Student Mundial, a website that helps international students find accommodation abroad (while taking a hefty commission I might add). I arrived in Barcelona on the 31st August with no money and no possessions in the knowledge I had work in 3 days. I spent the first 3 days getting lost, skating and going to the beach in the 30 degree September heat, however this paradise was short lived when the harsh reality of Monday morning came about...ouch!
The first weekThe first week was a novelty if anything; walking to the office in my newly acquired smart clothes, sitting at my own desk with my own email account and my own clients. Safe to say, the novelty wore off quickly. The company is a large company but only has a very small office in Barcelona, an office with 5 women aged 30+. Don´t get me wrong, the women were lovely but when you are in an office environment with 5 professional women for 9 hours a day then return to a flat in which your flatmates work nights, it can get pretty lonely!
When your internship doesn't go according to plan...I had been told by many people that doing a year abroad can be tough but I had been too busy organising my skate trip to heed warning, so when it did get a bit tough...it got tough! It turned out that the internship I was doing wasn't as I had expected; the economic crisis had left the company with less work than normal which in turn left me taking staples out of paper for quite a long time, and to add insult to injury, the tenancy on my flat was a week away from running out.
Finding accommodation with other studentsNot being in a student environment, coupled with having to be in work at 9am every day didn’t leave much time to meet people to live with and after searching the internet for 3 days solid for student accommodation with no success I finally resorted to Facebook. I was shocked at how many pages came up when I typed 'Erasmus students Barcelona'. I quickly joined them all and was inundated with notifications advertising rooms to rent in international student flats. The most helpful page was the ESN - the Erasmus Student Network; a site that provides a service for Erasmus students in most major European cities. Through this Facebook page I arranged a viewing at a flat with a Swedish guy, which in turn led to an invitation to a gala dinner with hundreds of other Erasmus students through which I met loads of people from all over the world. The flat with the Swedish guy fell through after I realised that we were far too different and I couldn’t live with him for a year, however I found another flat with 2 lovely French girls pretty quickly.
Internship highs and lowsWithin the same week I spoke to my boss regarding my concerns about the internship in which I was contracted for 10 months. She understood completely and sympathised with my situation. She even gave me time in the day to apply for new internships or go to interviews through which I found the internship with the company for which I am currently working. A company that has roughly 15 other interns from all over the world and pays €200 more than my previous. I hate to use the cliché, but the first couple of months were a horrendous rollercoaster with massive highs and equal lows.
New placement - new opportunities!I have now been with the company for just over 2 months and have come to terms with the fact that I am now part of the 9-6 corporate machine; a realisation which definitely nurtures the work-hard-play-hard outlook on life. I am thoroughly enjoying my time here despite the long working hours; Barcelona is a massively diverse city with people from all over the world moving here for the obvious reasons and I have made friends and contacts that will massively benefit me in later life. The main thing keeping me going through the working week is the (hopefully) good reference on my CV; (I am now working in Spanish as well as developing my previously rusty French and non-existent Portuguese), and the fact that my contract ends in March leaving me with the summer months to enjoy this amazing city!
My AdviceThe main pieces of advice I would give to anyone who is thinking of doing an internship is to be proactive: send out a lot of emails, reply to a lot of emails and develop a CV which outlines your strengths in an international workplace (communication, enthusiasm, etc.). Also have a look at the ESN - I personally haven’t used it since the gala dinner because they advertise really cheesy nights which I'm not into, but it is really useful when looking for accommodation and meeting people for the first time. Finally, communicate; I have learnt that people respect the fact that you are a non native speaker who is speaking the language. Also by communicating my concerns with my old boss I have now ended up in a better position, rather than keeping my feelings pent up inside and having to endure a 10-month stint manning a stapler.