With her online marketing internship drawing to a close, we asked our intern Stefania to provide a retrospective of her time at InterNations and the reasons why her work experience fit perfectly into her international CV.
My International Family
Growing up in an international household, I’ve been moving from country to country for as long as I can remember. I was raised in New Zealand by my Venezuelan mother and my Italian father. And I remember having family members visit us all the time — not only from Italy and Venezuela, but also from the United States, France, and Argentina.
Two Years of Constant Change
When I turned 16, my mom thought it would be good for me to improve my Spanish. So, I decided to move to Tenerife in the Canary Islands and move in temporarily with my godmother, until I found a place to live. This was a huge step for me, considering it was the farthest I’d ever been from my family — all of 18,000 km — and it took me a while to get used to all the changes.
For example, although the culture is pretty laid-back in both Spain and New Zealand, Spain takes this to a whole other level. And sometimes, living in the Canaries felt rather insular, like living in a bubble. A lot of people I met didn’t know anything about New Zealand, not even where it was exactly.
After graduating from high school in Spain, I set my mind on learning a new language and going to university in yet another country. Since I already spoke English, Spanish, and some French, I had German or Italian in mind.
Despite my Italian father, we rarely spoke Italian at home, and I’d always wanted to learn German, probably because my best childhood friend was from Germany. Since Italian and Spanish are closely related languages, though, I came to the realization that I was ready for a real challenge: moving to Germany.
My German Adventure
I first lived as an au pair with a small family on the outskirts of Frankfurt, but my main goal was to learn German as quickly as possible in order to attend a German university. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to a proper German language class, so I decided to teach myself with vocabulary lists and grammar lessons I found online. There’s this idea that German is an extremely difficult language to study, but I honestly think it’s a bit of a misconception — anything that involves effort and commitment just takes a lot of work.
In the beginning, listening to German songs was a huge help. I still love the rap hit “Astronaut”, with its amazing lyrics about how you can’t see any borders or the color of anyone’s skin from space. But it wasn’t until I met my current boyfriend — now fiancé — that I was able to really dive into the language and become fluent in German.
Many months later, I decided to take a C1 exam, the second-most advanced level in Common European Framework of Reference for Language Learning. Fortunately, I passed just in time to enroll at SDI Munich for a bachelor’s degree in Internationale Wirtschaftskommunikation (international business communication).
Both my parents are graphic designers, so I’d originally toyed with the idea of doing something artistic as well, but in the end, my practical side won out. The great thing about this specific degree is that I have the chance to study several things I enjoy, like foreign languages, economics, and business, particularly marketing.
In Search of an Internship
An important part of my degree program is completing a five-month mandatory internship outside Germany, so students can practice their non-native language skills. Luckily, they made an exception for me since German is not my mother tongue. And soon I was searching for internships in Munich.
Since this was my first time looking for an internship, I wasn’t 100% sure of what exactly I was looking for. But if there was one thing I was certain about, it was my huge passion for marketing, which was inspired by one of my professors at SDI. I had felt an instant connection to her since she was also an expat (from the States), teaching marketing — my only English-language class — and then she really sparked my interest in the subject too.
I found the ad for an internship at InterNations on LinkedIn. Actually, when I first moved to Germany, I was looking to meet new people and make friends, so I had signed up on various platforms, including InterNations. My mom had recommended the community to me; she’s an active member and has attended several events. But, unlike my mom, I didn’t really make use of the app, though InterNations stayed at the back of my mind.
I liked how international the company was with its mission and vision, as well as its team. Given my background, a company where I’d be able to work with fellow expats sounded like the place for me. It didn’t take me long to apply for the online marketing internship.
Getting Ready for a New Experience
I received a response from the HR Team the same day I applied. After a few weeks of going back and forth, with me sending in all the necessary paperwork, such as my certificate of enrollment from the university, I was given a short task to complete in 30 minutes that tested my Excel skills and my practical approach to online marketing.
I remember that day vividly. I was in Australia, where my dad and my siblings now live. After the semester ended, I wanted to spend some time with them in Perth. So I had to manage a seven-hour time difference — and interrupt our stereotypical Australian BBQ — to complete my assessment test.
A few weeks later, I was told that my future supervisor had reviewed the task and was happy with the results. And he wanted to have a short phone interview with me when I got back to Munich to start my new semester.To make this happen, though, I even had to leave in the middle of a lecture to take the call at home in peace.
After the interview, as I was gathering my things to head back to campus, I suddenly got an email from InterNations congratulating me on being chosen for my new position as an online marketing intern. I was so excited about this opportunity and ready for a brand-new experience!
My Tasks in Online Marketing
As you may know, InterNations hosts around 600 official events all over the world each month. These large events for an entire community help members meet other expats and international people in their current city of residence. Basically, it’s my job as an online marketing intern to advertise these events on Facebook, to our members, social media followers, and beyond by creating dedicated ad campaigns.
One of the first things I do in the morning when I arrive at the office, apart from pouring myself a huge mug of tea, is to check which upcoming events haven’t been promoted yet and to set up new ad campaigns for them. On some days, I need to create as many as 20 or more, while on other days it’s as few as five. I even have to advertise some events that take place on the same night, so then I need to prioritize and react quickly.
When setting up online marketing campaigns, it’s essential to keep the audience in mind, as the target groups tend to vary. I have to choose suitable images for the particular city. I’m now working on new marketing copy — short texts for the ads — to improve our campaigns.
With our diverse global audience, I also take cultural differences into account. For example, I wouldn’t necessarily use the same kinds of images and texts to promote a cocktail party in Spain for an ad campaign in Abu Dhabi, where alcohol consumption is heavily restricted.
I also get to allocate different budgets to spend on our various event ad campaigns, based on the return on investment for previous Facebook campaigns in the same community. And I’m experimenting with another kind of advertising campaign; we’re also creating Facebook ads to promote the results of our Expat Insider survey, one of the world’s largest surveys on living and working abroad.
But my job isn’t just working on ad campaigns all day long. In online marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s basically where a visitor “lands” when clicking on a Google AdWords ad or a similar link — it might be their first-ever impression of InterNations.
Creating these landing pages is by far my favorite task. I can play around with different background images, famous landmarks from a particular city, for example. I can even create my own collages and designs. As I’ve mentioned, both my parents are designers, which is why I’m familiar with programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Although I opted for a business degree, I enjoy using design software a lot!
The Green Interns’ Project
In addition to my online marketing tasks, I was able to lead the current interns’ project for a while. If you want to know more about project-based work for interns at InterNations, my friend Noemi, a former intern in the Editorial Office Team, has written an in-depth blog post about it.
For the Green Project, we are trying to make InterNations a more environmentally friendly place. We divided the project into two parts. First, we hosted the InterNations Clothes Swap in September, where team members could give their old clothes a new life.
And, second, we’ve just published an e-booklet with tips on sustainability and a green lifestyle, both in the office and at home. I came up with the idea for the book, structured the content, and helped distribute the chapters and sections to other interns to write — a true team effort. My personal contribution is the part about plants in the workplace. Did you know that having plants in your office environment reduces stress and increases productivity?
The Good and the Bad
I remember my first day at InterNations as if it were yesterday. Noemi — who I’ve just mentioned — was the first person I met when I started working here. She made my first day at work a lot less scary and helped me feel welcome, which is something I’ll never forget. Before her internship ended, Noemi and I became close friends. I even threw a big pizza party for her and some of the other interns at my apartment — and we still keep in touch.
Although there’s a lot I love about InterNations, not everything has been perfect. Despite getting to know great people and having an amazing supervisor, in the beginning I sometimes felt excluded by the full-time employees.
I understand that they see interns come and go all the time, but I didn’t feel completely comfortable, being the only intern on my floor. But fortunately, things changed when another new person joined our office, and then everyone gradually started opening up, myself included. Now I really feel like I’m part of the team.
Why Eloping to Denmark Is Next
With only a short time left at InterNations, it’s time for me to think about what’s next. Career-wise, I will finish my bachelor’s degree and then start my master’s in international sales management. I will probably start searching for jobs as a working student in and around Munich, hopefully in online marketing.
The next big step in my life will be my wedding, less than a week after my internship ends. I tried to get the paperwork done here in Germany, but as my family history is so complicated, it proved to be impossible to marry here. With the volatile situation in Venezuela right now, I couldn’t get the required documents from there.
In the end, the New Zealand Embassy recommended that we have our wedding in Denmark, where the legal situation is easier to navigate. So that’s what I will do in December — get married as part of a New Zealand-Italian-Venezuelan-German couple right across the Danish border.
Image credits: InterNations / iStockphoto / Pexels / private (Stefania Maso)