#InternAbroadBecause it is an experience that keeps on giving

by Stasia Lopez /
Stasia Lopez's picture
Feb 28, 2015 / 0 comments

Emily Wilson is a current junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Economics and Political Science. She interned abroad in Berlin, Germany in the summer of 2014 for three months. She interned with a startup company in Berlin called Gourmesso and worked mostly with sales and marketing. She also interned at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society during the summer of 2013, and is currently interning at Hertz in sales and operations. 


Emily Wilson.


Were you always interested in interning abroad? What motivated your decision to go abroad?

I always wanted to go abroad in some capacity. I went to the career services office in the winter of my sophomore year to get my resume in order, and one of the internship specialists told me about the international internship program. I went to the information sessions and decided it was something I really wanted to do. I figured the summer would be the best time to be abroad and interning abroad would be a great experience. 


What was your overseas experience like?

My overseas experience was incredible. I loved it. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, so this was my first experience being away from home for more than a few weeks. I learned a great deal about myself and grew a lot as a person.


Emily WIlson.


What skills did you develop from your experience abroad? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

I would not say that I developed that many new skills while abroad, but being abroad definitely improved many of my skills. I think that my problem solving skills and coping skills definitely improved. Being so far away from your support system forces you to figure things out on your own and grow as an independent adult. I definitely feel changed from my experience abroad. As I said before, I leaned about myself and grew up a lot. I had so many incredible experiences while overseas, spanning from working to travelling and everything in between, that I would never be have been able to experience without going abroad and interning.


What were some challenges that you observed that happened on your internship abroad experience?

Some challenges I observed on my internship abroad experience were being far away from my support system, the language barrier, and adjusting to living in an entirely different city and country. None of these challenges were too hindering, though.


How did you prepare to go abroad? What steps did you take that really helped you? What advice would you share with other students? Did you have to attend a pre-departure orientation?

I honestly did not take that many steps to prepare myself to go abroad. I did some research on the city and what people recommend to bring and not bring as far as packing. The program itself has some orientation type of classes that give you information to help prepare you as well. The program had an in-country advisor with us the first week or so while we were abroad. This allowed us to explore our respective cities and do some of the touristy stuff, which I really enjoyed. I would recommend attending the orientation meetings and classes to other students, at the minimum. I would also recommend taking advantage of the in-country advisor while he or she is there, if the program has one. I did and I know my friends who did not take advantage of all of the excursions and events regret it.


Many students worry about the cost of going abroad. How did you pay for your internship abroad experience? Were there any scholarships and grants available? Any tips you would recommend to students who’re interested in going abroad?

I am very fortunate and my parents covered my extra expenses to go abroad. There are numerous scholarships and grants available. If cost is an issue or something you believe is preventing you from being able to go abroad, definitely look into all the available scholarships and grants. I know the University of Pittsburgh Study Abroad Office has information on all the available grants and scholarships. While they might not seem like they will help very much since many of them are for only $500 or $1000, if you get multiple ones, they really do add up and can cover a significant portion of your abroad expenses. A tip I would say for going abroad would be plan for it to be expensive. While you are over there, you will want to travel and be able to go out to events, restaurants, bars, clubs, etc., so you will spend more money than you typically would being at school in the United States.


Emily Wilson.


Did anything shock or surprise you? Do you have a favorite memory to share from your experience abroad?

I was surprised at how I never once got homesick. I expected to at some point miss home, but I really did not. Not that I did not miss my family or friends, but I was so busy and made so many great connections and friends overseas that I never got truly homesick or felt ready to leave Berlin. I have numerous favorite memories from abroad, so it is impossible to pick just one to share.


Once you returned from your experience, how did you reflect upon your internship abroad experience?

I took lots of pictures while I was abroad. I shared them with my family and friends. 


Did your internship abroad experience ever come up in a job interview? If so, explain. Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

Yes, it has come up in job interviews and I often talk about it in interviews. I talk about my experience interning at a startup and how it really teaches you to adapt and problem solve. Also interning abroad is often a conversation starter and something that stands out on an application. I think interning abroad has definitely helped me secure my internship at Hertz and has helped me in my interviews with companies for summer internships by giving me something different to discuss in interviews and giving me a range in internship experience since I have worked at a nonprofit, a startup, and now a Fortune 500 company.


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

International education has influenced my cultural identity by giving me greater exposure to other cultures and lifestyles. Being abroad really opens your eyes to how much there is to see and experience in the world. This experience not only made me appreciate some of the things about my life in the United States more, but also gave me a burning sense of wanderlust and made me appreciate the differences in my lifestyle abroad.   

It is an experience that keeps on giving long after you touch back down on U.S. soil.




Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.



All photos courtesy and copyright Emily Wilson