If you didn’t do an internship during high school, you probably had to do one during college. The process hasn’t strayed from its rigid routine.
Hearing you must apply. Sending an endless number of mails including your newly updated resume, or even a video resume because ‘you have to stay ahead of the times’. Often the steps include getting rejected repeatedly. Sometimes it means crying and sometimes it’s pure joy.
They tell you; ‘go for something that helps you in the future. Go for your dreams, go as far as you want. Imagine the impossible and go for it.’ Schools hype you up, they tell you to start looking months before the actual date. They talk about their own internships and how much they helped them. Which only makes every rejection worse. Sometimes you get lucky, and you get into your first choice right away.
What they don’t tell you, is sometimes you settle.
You settle for an internship in Belgium. You settle for an internship close to what you want. You settle for an internship because you did not get your first choice.
I did my internship at Education First Antwerp, you might have heard of it. I didn’t get my experience abroad, but it turned out to be so much more. EF is an international organization where people get the opportunity to study a language abroad. But it’s more than that, they also have an ambassador program. Around the end of May, EF asked me to stay as a marketing job student and ambassador responsible. Meaning, every EF Student in Flanders that promoted EF, was now my responsibility.
Amazing. At least that was my first thought. It was a lot of hard work, but my ambassadors made it totally worth it. I formed bonds with people that I’m sure will last a lifetime. Then it came; ‘Sign in to go on the ambassador promotion tour in the UK or Malta!’ A chance I took on without hesitation. A few weeks after enrolling, I got a mail that I was chosen to be the ambassador responsible, going to the UK.
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After that, it all went quite fast. In less than two weeks I ensured I was able to leave, I couldn’t leave the office without all my work prepped. I had to do a week of quarantine in Ashridge, the most amazing quarantine I have ever had. (And I had too many since covid started).
Then the hard work really started. Going to a different city to a different school every day was intense. Early mornings to set up our booth, with late nights driving to another city. But I preferred the late-night drives over the early morning ones. We once left at 6 to be at the school by 8 but traffic made the drive an hour longer, and our arrival too.
But I learned more than just doing class presentations. I became more confident, I learned to step up in a leadership position and not to be pushed around. Being responsible for two ambassadors who were only slightly younger than me did not make it easy to always get them to listen. On a social level, I blossomed as well. I met the most amazing people from all over the world while working at EF. Meeting new coworkers, students, and strangers every day.
Even if you didn’t start the adventure you expected, that does not mean you won’t learn or gain experience. Every opportunity is one for greatness, even in the smallest ways. From posting blogposts, to making events or huge campaigns. You learn not only through your assignments but from the people you meet. After a few years, you’ll be the person telling others how much your internship helped you.
Take every chance, but there is nothing wrong with ‘settling’. Because what is settling really?
Text: Anke Vandeweyer, final editor: Danica Van der Merwe
Photo: ©EF Manchester