In this interview series, InterNations team members talk about their role and responsibilities. Élisa, from our Community Engagement Team, tells us how she inspires community spirit among our members and what motivates her at work.
Élisa, could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m originally from Montreal in the French-speaking part of Canada. I’ve been working at InterNations since February 2020. As a Community Engagement Specialist, I’m responsible for our communities in the Nordics and Central Europe, from Reykjavik to Budapest.
In your profile on a professional networking site, you define your role as “inspiring community spirit”. What does this mean in practice?
It’s a key part of my job to recruit, onboard, support, and inspire our InterNations Ambassadors and Consuls. They are committed members who host large events for the entire community or smaller get-togethers that focus on particular interests. They help our InterNations Communities remain vibrant, active, and growing.
And I inspire them with new ideas and encourage them to connect with each other. I want to create a sense of community among the Consuls and Ambassadors in my region.
Unlike our Local Community Engagement Specialists in Madrid, Zurich, and NYC, you work fully remotely from Munich. What impact does remote work have on your job?
Actually, the fact that I’m not there on location is among the most challenging parts. Both best practices and specific concerns may differ from community to community. But it’s harder to know what exactly they are if you don’t live there. It also makes it more difficult to keep track of potential issues that may come up in a community.
The key to overcoming these obstacles is constant communication. The communication channels should always remain open. So, I check in regularly with my Consuls and Ambassadors and make sure to keep in touch. They should know that it’s easy to reach me, they can contact me at any time, and I’ll answer quickly.
I want to build a genuine relationship with our Ambassadors and Consuls. My role is all about connecting, sharing, and helping them grow.
So, how do you help these InterNations members grow into their roles?
The roles of the InterNations Consuls and Ambassadors are purely voluntary ones. So, it’s very important to me that they enjoy and feel fulfilled by what they do.
We’ve created dedicated groups for our InterNations Consuls and Ambassadors — their very own go-to space. These groups really help create that sense of community and purpose.
I also organize special online activities for my region’s group. There, we discuss my Ambassadors’ and Consuls’ personal goals and figure out how to support them. Maybe they want to address a particular issue or develop a specific skill set, such as event organization or communication skills. I’d like to help them achieve these goals while having fun.
Consuls and Ambassadors from the same region can also use the activities to connect. I really enjoy coming up with new event formats where they can exchange ideas and learn from each other.
You’re a French-Canadian living in Germany and working for the world’s largest expat community. What has your personal experience with life abroad been like?
I moved from Montreal to Munich right after graduating from university. It had always been my dream to live in Europe. My parents are also expats. They’d relocated to Quebec from France, whereas I was planning to move in the opposite direction.
Before coming to Germany, I had lived in Italy and Spain as an exchange student. Growing up, I’d been very interested in these languages and cultures. Italian and Spanish are closely related to French, so learning them came quite naturally to me. Though I hadn’t thought I’d been living in Germany one day, I think getting a job in Munich turned out to be a perfect fit.
Of course, life abroad has its challenges. My biggest one is being so far from my family and friends in Montreal. Arriving in Munich shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic with its lockdowns and travel restrictions didn’t help. And let’s not forget about the German language! Despite taking German classes, I find it’s been going much slower than Spanish or Italian, unfortunately.
But these challenges can be an asset in my role. They give me additional insights into our member base, especially our Consuls and Ambassadors. Many of them are not locals either, after all. We share the same joys and face the same difficulties. Being far from home, learning a whole new language, dealing with cultural differences, etc. Having this experience in common makes it easier to bond.
What’s your personal sense of purpose at work — i.e., what motivates you most?
I would definitely describe myself as a people person. Communicating with others a lot gives me a big boost of motivation.
I love interacting with InterNations members from various backgrounds and cultures every day. I support a really diverse group of Consuls and Ambassadors. They live in nine different countries and come from all around the world. I enjoy hearing about their insights into community life, their goals, and their ideas. Sometimes, I’m amazed, in the best of ways, at how creative they are.
What also motivates me is the mission of InterNations itself — to make expat life a great experience. From attending events and talking to members, I know that we can and do make a difference in people’s lives.
And what do you like best about working at InterNations?
I really appreciate being entrusted with different projects and having the chance to take ownership.
Last summer, for example, I organized a special hybrid event for our anniversary. The InterNations Team hosted it, and it took place online. As part of the event, Ambassadors from several communities joined the Zoom call live from their in-person anniversary events.
The schedule required a lot of coordination, and I had to make sure everything went smoothly. It was a huge project, but I enjoyed being in charge.
Last but not least, I like our team spirit. I particularly love working in such an international team. Most of my colleagues from Community Engagement are expats, too. When I started working here — being completely new to Munich — they became my very first friends in Germany.
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