An up-close and personal look at AIESEC internships

Friday, November 25, 2011

  • Erika Wieler on her internship to Sevilla, Spain

    Erika Wieler on her internship to Sevilla, Spain

Facts about Erika & her internship:
Who: Erika Wieler, University of Guelph student
Where: Sevilla, Spain
When: April 2011 – end of June 2011
What: Teaching English

To go on an internship, you first need to make the decision: ‘I am going!’

What motivated you to go on an internship?

Since I wanted to improve my Spanish as well as try teaching, this internship was a great combination. I was looking for an internship in South America, Central America or Spain.  I had been to Sevilla, Spain before so I felt very comfortable with going back there. This really was the perfect opportunity.

Did you feel any sort of culture shock when you arrived at the place to be?

I had already been to Sevilla two years before going on my internship, to learn Spanish for three weeks.  So most of the ‘culture shock’ happened during my first trip.  I remember when I first found out about how different the meal schedules are there, and how they eat a huge meal around 2PM every day, just before having a siesta of course! Although there are many differences between Canadian and Spanish culture, there are many similarities as well.  AIESEC-ers there are just as much fun as they are here and are just as welcoming, so I got used to the culture really quickly.

When you are doing an internship, you also need a place to live. Where did you live and was it difficult to find a place to stay?

For a month I stayed with some AIESEC members from AIESEC Sevilla, and after that I found a place with one of my new AIESEC friends!  It wasn’t difficult because they helped me to arrange everything.

And when you are settled, you want to do more than just work! How was your social life and was it hard for you to meet people?

As soon as I got to the airport, people from AIESEC Sevilla picked me up and we went directly to an AIESEC conference in Malaga.  I was really tired, but it was great… the adrenaline, along with meeting tons of new people, really kept me going… After just a few days I already knew about 200 people!  With all of these new friends, my social life was as busy as I had hoped.  Peoples’ social lives in Spain are very different from what we have here in Canada. I find that a lot of people here go to work, eat, and go to bed. In Spain people set aside some time for their friends every day.  Because of that, I felt that I had a very balanced life while I was there.  There were always things to do with other AIESEC-ers.

And then it’s time to go home again…How did you feel when you got back?

When I came back to Canada, I felt like I had been living a dream and that suddenly it was all over. I absolutely loved my time in Sevilla; the life style, the weather, the people.  I really missed being able to speak Spanish whenever I wanted to. When I came back I didn’t have a job, so I had nothing to do and felt very bored.  It took me a few weeks to get used to being in Canada again.  If there’s anything I would suggest to interns coming back home, it would be that you try to organize something beforehand for once you arrive in Canada.  During the last weeks of your internship, make plans so that when you come home you have something to keep you busy.  Whether it be work, volunteering, visiting family and friends, whatever it takes to get you back into a routine.

Did you feel you had accomplished something or reached your goals?

Yes, I definitely did. I improved my Spanish significantly and I think that my students learned a lot of English.  I also got the most wonderful teaching experience, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  My students did well on their exams, so I think my goal was accomplished!

What kind of advice would you like to give to those that want to go abroad?

Get to know the people from the LC that you will be going to beforehand, that way you will feel more comfortable knowing that you have friends there waiting for you.  Also, expect to be surprised.  I know that seeing things that are unexpected is usually called “culture shock”, but to me that expression almost has a bad connotation.  Rather than thinking of cultural differences as being bad things or obstacles for you to overcome, think of those differences as being interesting and exciting.  Cultural differences are what help people to open their minds and see what AIESEC is all about.  Also, when all else fails and you have no idea what someone just said to you in another language, just smile and be positive.  Don’t feel overwhelmed or afraid.  Having a good attitude often speaks louder than words.  Most people in other countries will already be impressed just by the fact that you are showing an interest in their culture, so they will be happy to help. 

So, the last question: would you go on an internship again?

Yes absolutely! Every time I see a plane, I want to be on it!

For more info on AIESEC: http://aiesec.ca/

Written by: Christianne Kerkhofs

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