When her internship was coming to an end, we asked our Social Media Intern Darcie to sum up her experiences at the InterNations office in Munich.
I am currently a student in my third year at the University of Liverpool, where I study business management with a year in industry. As part of my course, I have to undertake a work placement, either locally or abroad. I was always keen on gaining international experience, so I was very happy when I landed my role as a Social Media Intern at InterNations.
My First Taste of Life Abroad: Volunteering in Uganda
I have always loved the idea of traveling around the world, visiting new places, and getting to know different cultures. This love for travel definitely spurred my trip to Uganda in my final year of school, where I volunteered for three and a half weeks with KISS, a charity that helps vulnerable children and their families. We were able to see firsthand where the money they raise goes, through numerous house visits to the families and contributing to the agricultural project in the community. It gave me a first glimpse of the difference in cultures around the world. From then on, I knew that whenever I could, I would grab any opportunity to go abroad.
A Word-of-Mouth Recommendation: Finding Out about the Internship
I did not have a particular place in mind when I was looking for an internship; I just knew I wanted it to be a plane journey away. However, when I found out that InterNations was a Munich-based company with job openings for interns, I was very excited. I myself had never been to Germany, but my mum, my aunt, and my godmother had all lived near Munich for years when they were younger, working in a US army recreation center situated by Chiemsee, one of Germany’s largest and most beautiful lakes and they didn’t have a bad word to say about it.
Initially, I came across InterNations via a final-year student at my university who’d previously worked in the company’s PR Team. We were in the same group during a workshop and we ended up discussing her placement year. Everything she was saying about her experience was positive, and the roles offered on the company’s career page all seemed appealing to me. I stayed in contact with her and started asking questions about Munich and the company itself. I was originally searching for roles in HR and never thought of an internship in social media until I saw InterNations advertising it. Then I knew I wanted to apply straightaway as it ticked so many boxes of what I was interested in, such as creating my own content and working in an international team.
The hiring process was different to the other jobs I’d applied for, due to the placement being abroad. I had to complete an English test to analyze my writing skills and then got to the next stage, which was a task directly related to social media. I was slightly nervous about these tests as there was a time limit, but I was happy with the outcome. Shortly afterwards, I was invited to a Skype interview, where I met my future supervisor and head of department. Though I was merely sitting in my university room, I got dressed up in formal interview attire — rather than wearing something more casual — to put me in the right mindset. I did feel very comfortable during the interview and was over the moon when I found out I’d secured the role!
The Final Decision: Choosing InterNations over Other Options
After spending months applying for an internship, I ended up receiving offers from both InterNations and the UK branch office of a large industrial manufacturing company. I was offered the latter first and initially accepted because I wanted to keep my options open.
After comparing the two job openings, I thought there were pros and cons to both: The international manufacturing company was a very well-known corporation, which also mentioned potential opportunities after the internship. However, the placement itself was in business IT, which I did not have a particular interest in at the time. Nevertheless, when I was fast-tracked by the company and asked to attend an assessment day in Poole, I went. It was a great opportunity because I had to present to two managers on my own, which was very helpful in improving both my confidence and my presentation skills, so I certainly don’t regret going.
But when I found out about the offer from InterNations, I made my choice. Working at InterNations would push me out of my comfort zone and throw me in at the deep end in a new country. I was looking forward to moving to Munich — at least until I started looking for accommodations, which caused a lot of stress and worry, as I’d underestimated how competitive the local housing market is. (Luckily, it all worked out in the end.)
All Things Social Media: Group Chats and Photo Updates
Ever since I’ve had my own phone, I don’t remember a time without using social media. This internship was a great platform for improving my knowledge of social media, as well as providing me with the skills to work and succeed in this very up-to-date industry. I think social media has many positives, my favorite being the ability to connect with friends and family and to share our experiences with each other.
For example, as my aunt lives in Torrox Costa, Spain, and my uncle in Nairobi, Kenya, we don’t see each other in person very often, usually once a year for my auntie and even less frequently for my uncle, due to him being so far away. Social media sites like Facebook are a great way to see what my family are up to, with our group chats and regular photo updates. So, I was very enthusiastic about working for a global expat community and learning more about their social media strategy on top of that.
From Tweeting to Creating Content: My Daily Office Routine
My friends often ask me, “What do you actually do?” with most of them thinking I spend my day at the office just scrolling through our Twitter feed or posting random pictures on Instagram. Well, there are lots of different aspects to my role, but I pretty much have set tasks for each specific day.
I write all the posts on our Twitter and LinkedIn pages, as well as our Instagram stories, such as sharing team tips for working from home and self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis. I also take care of the creative side of things, for example, creating and editing images for our Expat Tip and Expat Chat posts, which provide our followers with a platform to talk about their personal experiences, to benefit from our tips, and to share their own advice.
When I was researching InterNations, I loved seeing the Monday Motivation posts on the various social media channels. They consist of a motivational quote or proverb to give people the boost of positivity they need on a Monday morning. All my friends know how much I love an inspirational quote and have one ready for pretty much every situation; so, gathering such quotes and creating the visuals to go with them is definitely an aspect of my job that I enjoy! This also means I’ve been able to work with Canva, the image-editing application we use for our posts and Instagram stories. It helped me to further develop both my editing and my creative skills.
Another task that takes up much of my time is Falcon; this is a tool we use for all our channels to schedule content and deal directly with our customers and their requests, for example, on how to become a member or where to find upcoming events in their community. After spending a lot of my time on Falcon, I have definitely grown in confidence when responding to our members and social media followers, as I now have a clearer idea of how to react to questions or complaints. This has made the process a lot quicker too!
A Charitable Christmas: Leading the Interns’ Project
Apart from our daily tasks and responsibilities, the interns at InterNations have the chance to get together and come up with new ideas for projects within or even outside the company. I particularly enjoyed this opportunity to get involved with something beyond my everyday tasks. I was the project leader for “InterNations Charitable Christmas” last December, which was our way of giving back to the local community in Munich.
We worked with two charities, Münchner Tafel, a local food bank, where we created shoeboxes full of essentials such as toiletries and treats for those in need. Moreover, we also raised money for the Ronald McDonald Haus, which provides temporary housing for families with sick children in the neighboring Department for Congenital and Paediatric Heart Surgery at the German Heart Centre. Through office donations and a bake sale, we were able to give them more than 250 EUR as a Christmas present.
The Best Bits: Some Highlights from My Internship
Throughout my internship, I have learned lots of new skills and had quite a few moments I was proud of. I have always been very organized — and I do enjoy being so — but since working in social media, my time-management skills have massively improved since the content has to be finished according to schedule. I had to ensure that I ticked off my to-do list each day and that everything was scheduled on time. In addition to getting even more organized, publishing several articles that I had written in our expat magazine was another highlight. I am especially proud of my contributions to our Mental Health Week, which helped raise awareness for an important topic that impacts quite a few expats too.
Apart from the skills I have learned and improved at InterNations, I would say that the company itself would be at the top of my personal “best of” list. Everyone I met was very friendly and made settling in a lot easier! It was the little things that went a long way. For example, when I turned 20, I celebrated my birthday abroad for the first time, and I was welcomed by my team with a desk decorated with glitter, a card, and a homemade cake, which really meant a lot to me.
I love that there are so many other interns, too, who have all made such a positive impact on my time at InterNations. Team-bonding activities, such as an outing to the trampoline park, are a fun way to do something different with everyone rather than just hanging out at the office. However, the office has also brought entertainment, especially our big Thanksgiving lunch. Being British, I’ve never celebrated this holiday, but having such a diverse team meant we had some team members from the US (especially my former supervisor), who were keen on getting everyone involved. We each prepared a dish and brought it in to celebrate the holiday together — safe to say, the rest of the day was not so productive after the huge quantities of food we’d all consumed!
Beyond InterNations: Life outside the Office
Despite having to cut my time short in Munich due to the coronavirus crisis, living in Germany was an experience that I will not forget — from swimming in the Eisbach, a sidearm of the Isar River, during my first few days in Munich (probably also the scariest moment during all those months!) to three weeks of fun with the other interns at Oktoberfest. And let’s not forget my first real German Christmas market, when I was walking around Marienplatz with a band playing seasonal tunes from the Neues Rathaus (new town hall).
Day trips to Austria were a great chance to travel, and quite cheaply too. Not only did I get to visit the famous Salzburg locations from The Sound of Music and enjoy the amazing views from the Hohensalzburg Fortress together with my family, but one of my funniest memories from my time abroad is from Hochzillertal, a ski resort in the Austrian Alps. I went there with two friends and their company for a “hike”. We thought there would just be a bit of a walk on a specific route. What we hadn’t bargained for: we basically ended up climbing a mountain in our trainers, while the rest of the team were kitted out in full hiking gear. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t manage to get too far, so we just spent a lot of time eating and drinking on top of the mountain, which was still a laugh!
I hope I’ll be able to take another trip to Munich one day — and this time, I’ll bring both my hiking boots and my skiing equipment.
Image credit: InterNations / iStockphoto / Pixabay / private (Darcie Blackwell)
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