Fall 2016, Issue III
Internship stories from Prague, Fall 2016.
Hey you! Get of your SOFFA! - by Grace Strausser.
Looking through a lens - by Allison Oakes.
Intern at The Prague Visitor - by Tatiana Cirisano.
Fulbright - by Meghana Killedar.
When I first decided I wanted to study abroad, I had a decidedly different idea of what “abroad” meant. My first few weeks in Prague consisted of meeting more American students than Czech people and being proud of my language skills when I remembered to mumble “dobrý den” at the grocery store. My calendar was filled with trips I was going to take all across Europe, causing all my Facebook ads to scream travel deals at me whenever I logged on.
However, as I began settling into daily life, the reality that the Czech Republic was home for the next four months, and where I would be spending most of my time, began to set in. I suddenly had to remember to account adjusting to living, working and studying in Prague as “abroad” as well.
While the major cultural differences were easy enough to figure out, I soon recognized that there are also smaller disparities that can only be understood through experiences, sometimes awkward ones. While such interactions on the tram were useful, my time at my internship provided the initial entryway and overall foundation for my intercultural experience.
For the past semester, I worked as an intern at Fulbright Commission Czech Republic. As the Fulbright Program is an initiative under the US government, my transition into Czech life was made easier by the program’s frequent collaborations with the American Center. As a result, I was able to gain a deeper insight into the Czech perspective on many issues that I only had had an American’s viewpoint on, such as the election.
Additionally, working at Fulbright afforded me the unique opportunity to speak with the incoming English Teaching Assistants. The ETAs, who are only a year or two older, are living in cities and towns outside of Prague for an entire year completely on their own. Being able to discuss their unique challenges and triumphs with them allowed me to compare and contrast my own experience with theirs.
When I selected my internship, I had no idea how much the position would enhance my time in the Czech Republic, whether it was through the places I traveled or the people I met. It has allowed me to have a completely unique abroad experience and I look forward to applying the skills I’ve learned from it in my future relationships and career.
Soffa Magazine - by Bridget Keane.
Working as an intern at SOFFA magazine has taught me a lot, especially about myself. I never thought my first internship experience would be in another country, completely out of my comfort zone. However, this was the best way to start out my professional career. The majority of people who work at SOFFA are Czech. Therefore, interning at SOFFA as an American student studying abroad helped to push me to enhance my intercultural skills. I learned that people, especially from another country, may not always do things or work in the way that I would. There are different customs of each culture that shape the work environment, and I learned to adapt to ones that are different than my own. I remained open-minded and curious throughout my semester at SOFFA, willing to learn how the company operates and bridge any cultural differences. This was especially important because SOFFA revolves a lot around teamwork. I think I have grown a lot more confident in sharing my opinions and ideas at the SOFFA meetings, and I learned that you have to put yourself and your ideas out there to make the magazine the best it can be. Even if it is just the smallest suggestion, every person’s opinion can go a long way. However, I have also learned the importance of communication skills and listening to others’ opinions. When two people’s opinions clash about a certain issue, it is important to talk it out and come to a compromise. Throughout my experience as an intern at SOFFA, I have also become much more independent. I know my duties, and I do them without being told. I am self-motivated and open to any challenges that SOFFA has presented to me. I have loved interning at SOFFA, and I am excited to use what I have learned at SOFFA at future internships and in my career.
The Prague Visitor - by Helen Lee (see portfolio).
Looking back on an entire semester abroad can be overwhelming. How could I possibly sum up everything I learned and experienced? With less than two weeks left in Prague, I feel anxious about leaving my life here behind and returning to the states. In around four months, I’ve adjusted to a semi-Czech way of life. I am quiet on public transportation, I avoid eye contact, and I don’t feel the need to smile at every person I pass. I have my favorite coffee shops, my classic gelato scoops, and I have an established daily schedule. And as it becomes more and more alarmingly clear that I’m approaching a week of “lasts” – last day of class, last day at my internship, last weekend trip – I feel a looming dread.
I learned a lot about myself here. We all heard the clichés before we arrived in Prague: study abroad will change your life! You learn so much! You gain independence! And as much as I’d like to stray away from these clichés, they only proved to be true.
I grew immensely as an intern for The Prague Visitor. I’ve learned how to manage myself in a professional environment. I have become more confident in my abilities and am more inclined to speak up with ideas I have. I’ve learned a great deal about the magazine industry and its place in the overall media spectrum. And after past internships at large companies, it was a nice change to work for a small office.
One of the most important lessons I learned is that it is possible to find work you are passionate about. Over the years, it’s been hard to be a journalism student and hear left and right about the decline of journalism. I’ve considered switching to public relations and communications more times than I can count. But after spending my semester doing work I love, I am re-committed to pursuing journalism work in the future.
Nydrle - by Brigitte Legallet.
I sat down with my academic advisor told me, “You can either go to Prague or Budapest to study abroad whilst completing your major on time” or something along those lines. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world growing up, but my families adventures never brought us around Europe. So Prague was the answer to those options and here I am… happier than I have ever been living in a culture which is quite opposite from anything I experience at home.
I have had a few internships back at home, but my internship with Nydrle was different. At home, I was often running for coffee or analyzing data, just doing basic work that my superiors needed to get out of the way. Here in Prague… at Nydrle, I am an active researcher where I get to use platforms that are familiar to me. I often suffer from this disease called “impatience” and sometimes it is very difficult for me to adapt to new and unfamiliar surroundings. Entering the Nydrle office on the first day was shockingly uncomfortable, there was little to no English and no one that seemed to want to engage. And this was just something I had to get used to. The language barrier often presented an issue in my involvement because I wasn’t able to engage in basic conversation or discussion. I learned to embrace my new environment and do the work that I was assigned.
Often my boss and I would communicate through email in order to make sure we were on the same page with tasks. I learned this value of patience not only with my boss, but my self as well. I was able to learn how to communicate on a level and through a medium that was easy for us instead of face to face because the tasks would often be difficult to understand. I spent a lot of time alone in the office working on my own projects, as most people do, and it taught me to not always be concerned with being around people. I learned that I really do like to be left alone when I am working and I am much more productive.
Overall, I learned a lot about the Czech culture and about myself. I feel that I have grown mentally by working in another country. I felt this internship experience was what truly immersed me in so many ways.
Cinema Belongs To Us - by Kendall Marianacci.
You would think that working an internship abroad would be hard. That everything would be in a different language and that you would just have to figure it out. Well, at Ciee they make the process fairly simple. For me, I interned at an organization called Cinema Belongs to Us. Cinema Belongs To Us is a film company that does film consulting. However, while I interned there they started developing a product called Kinovat. Kinovat was going to be their startup business that would allow anyone creative to make their product anywhere by creating a network of skilled creative people, think LinkedIn meets the film industry. As for me, I love all things startup so this a was a perfect fit. My mentor at CBTU was a woman named Asmara, Asmara happened to be American and is one of the only Americans to go to the prestigious FAMU. Therefore, language barrier was a nonissue. We would meet weekly and do a ton of research about other startups, the film industry, and startup processes. The other intern and I actually had a viable position and our ideas contributed to Asmara’s envisioned product. We helped her to organize her head to help her create the functionalities that would make up the minimal viable product. Soon, Asmara realized she needed visuals. Therefore, we were able to spend a lot of time going through all of our notes and data to create the first version prototype. This was a really awesome experience because we were able to put her ideas onto a document in the most raw form, which she will later bring to designers and developers to make something real! Overall, I learned a lot about what it takes to create a startup this semester. I hope to stay involved and continue working on startups in the future!
Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival - by Hannah Johnson.
As I’m sadly already started to prepare for my return to the United States and school, I have taken a lot of time to reflect on the many learning experiences I have had here in Prague. In addition to everything I have learned in the classroom, some of my most valuable learning has happened exploring the city streets, travelling streets and trying every Czech food imaginable. While all of these experiences were incredibly valuable, my internship with the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival was one of the best ways I immersed myself in Czech culture and society.
My internship provided me with a great opportunity to not only learn about Czech workplace culture, but also about how an international film festival is run. Both at the festival’s office and at the actual event in Jihlava, I was usually the only American in the room, and while it was often a little bit intimidating, this forced me to use creative problem solving and assertiveness to get the job at hand completed. At the festival, I interacted with festival employees and moviegoers from dozens of countries, which helped me learn about how to communicate across cultures and language barriers. It was also a source for laughter, as I probably said “Nerezumim Cesky” (“I don’t understand Czech”) hundreds of times. Furthermore, I experienced working in a fast-paced, high stress environment that is an international documentary film festival and realized the importance of every single team player in this situation, even a lowly American intern like myself!
I’m very thankful that I got the opportunity to work at JIDFF and plan on keeping in touch with my co-workers in the future. Before I worked at the festival, I loved documentaries, but did not know anything about the importance of international film festivals in this community. After completing my internship, I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the international documentary film community and all the work that is needed to make a film festival like Jihlava happen.
FleishmanHillard - by Selina Xiaowen.
I started working at FleishmanHillard in September, and it has been one of the most remarkable experience I had during my time in Prague. FleishmanHillard is a global advertising agency and working in a marketing agency has always been something I wanted to do for my future career.
The first week of work was an exciting but also nerve-racking one. I entered the office without knowing anyone and without knowing the language that everyone’s speaking. However, fortunate enough, my supervisor immediately introduced me to everyone and went to meals with me during lunch breaks so to help me better adapt to the new work place. Now, I’m close with most of the people in the office (there are around 20 of them), and would even hangout with each other outside of work. This was definitely something that I did not anticipate when I just started my work.
During my time at FleishmanHillard, I participated in several projects, including brainstorming event and campaign ideas for P&G, writing up articles in advertising effort of South Park’s Season 20 Premiere, organizing Lenovo’s public conference of its new smart phone line with my team etc. It was great that I get to take part in a lot of projects since FleishmanHillard has a lot of global project with English speaking clients. All these projects taught me more about marketing campaigns as well as the unique advertising method in Czech Republic. I made use of my creativity and came up with several innovative strategies for clients while brainstorming with my team. I made use of some of the knowledge I gained during my internship United States and China so to give them a more global perspective and some inspirations. I also learnt that marketing campaigns in Czech Republic still focus more on traditional media reports rather than digital campaigns.
It was an amazing experience that helped me grow both personally and intellectually. This internship helped me further gain a global understanding about marketing and became more attentive to details. Beside the skills I gained, the friendship I gained at FleishmanHillard is even more valuable and I believe we will all stay in touch in the future.
My Semester As a Professional Tourist - Why applying for The Prague Visitor was the best abroad decision I made. - by Tatiana Cirisano (see portfolio).
After the shock and excitement of being accepted into CIEE Prague’s fall study abroad program settled in last spring, I got to work researching all that I could about Prague and its tourist attractions. However, after Googling around the web for hours, I was met with only gimmicky tourism websites and outdated personal blogs. That all changed when a CIEE alumna told me about The Prague Visitor, a monthly English-speaking magazine and website aimed toward tourists who want to get the most out of their visits to Prague.
The magazine, which got its start just last year, publishes a monthly print edition complete with an events calendar, map of popular restaurants and nightlife hangouts, and three to four Prague-based feature stories. Quickly after I learned about The Visitor, I realized it was the perfect place to intern while abroad. What would better help me explore a new city than to work at a magazine meant for tourists like me? Now that I am in the final two weeks of my editorial internship at The Visitor, I can say firmly that I was right. Through my writing for the magazine, I’ve been able to tour restaurants and art galleries, participate in photoshoots at scenic locations around Prague, interview inspiring Czechs like David Černý and Janek Rubes, and interact daily with Czech colleagues—all the while building a strong portfolio of stories. Of course, I can’t say that this experience has been easy. While the perks of the job far outnumber its disadvantages, the tight deadlines and chaotic work environment of the journalism industry can be a challenge. At one point in November, for example, I was tasked with completing a cover story from start to finish in only five days (I did it!). As if the stress of producing a monthly print issue isn’t enough, I had to navigate an entirely new culture to do it, sometimes requiring a translator and pretty often embarassing myself along the way. However, I’m walking away from my internship at The Visitor not only with a number of strong stories at my back, but also with a newfound sense of confidence and ability to solve problems creatively. It’s been stressful, exciting, challenging, and at times scary—but above all, my most rewarding experience abroad.
The Aspen Institute - by Laura Hayes.
The coolest opportunity my internship provided me was the opportunity to not only work on but also attend the Aspen Institute Prague’s 2016 annual conference Jak jsme na tom. This full day conference was broken up into five notable sections: governece, quality of life, natiaonl security, economic potential, and education. The conference was given in Czech but was transalted into English so that international guests and atendees could also understand. While I didn’t think about it when I was working on it, attending this conference helped me learn a lot about the shape that the Czech Republic was in. I now know a lot more about the country, their government, and what they honestly think about themselves. It was also interesting to hear their initial reactions because this event took place so soon after the US presidential elections, to how or if this outcome will effect Europe. I was most honored to be at the conference though because I got to hear Prime Minister Sobotka speak about his country and what his hopes are for the future regardless of who is leading it (the next elections will be held next year). Aside from just the conference, I also got to work with my collegues in a different context. Working with your teammates outside of the office where you usually work is a really fun and different experience. This conference was held in a musum in Prague that I had never been to before much less knew that it existed. This opportunity helped me explore a new part of Prague that is very much out of my normal litle corner of the city that I visit on a daily or weekly basis. It helped me branch out and enjoy a new part of myslef, and the city I have been living in for the past four months. Imagine that.
Locus Workspace - by Danielle Crepeau.
It is crazy to think that my time in Prague is coming to an end. Going into my last week of my internship, it is important to reflect on how much this city, and Locus Workspace, has given me.
When I began at Locus Workspace, I knew little about the Czech Republic, and even less about the coworking world. However, I adapted quickly, and using the intercultural skills I was learning in my Intercultural Communication and Leadership class at CIEE, I was able to effectively communicate with my boss, my fellow interns, and the other Locus Workspace members, who come from all over the world. My curiosity and resourcefulness aided me in learning more about my role as social media intern within the Czech business world as well – I was never hesitant to reach out when I needed something, and everyone at Locus Workspace was more than willing to help me along the way.
Although there was not a huge language barrier while at work – Locus prides itself in being a very English friendly workspace – I was able to practice my foreign language skills in other aspects of the job by communicating with outside organizations. I frequently had to do research on Czech websites, contact local Czech companies, and interact with members who came from non-English speaking countries. This benefitted me greatly, as it gave me the confidence boost that I needed to speak the Czech I was learning in other aspects of my daily life abroad.
One of my favorite parts of my internship was the aspect of community that surrounded Locus. No matter where members came from, everyone gathered at events like speakers, pub nights, and “mafia” game night events to bond, get to know one another, and bridge cultural differences. These events were fun, and made me feel like a part of the Locus Workspace family.
Despite being nervous at first, this feeling turned into self-confidence and self-motivation throughout the course of the semester. At the core, I improved my ability to communicate within the workspace and to function in a very unfamiliar environment. On top of this, I was able to connect with people I never would have met otherwise, hear interesting stories, network with people in my field of study, and make friends in the workplace. Interning with Locus Workspace was a culturally and personally enriching experience – one that I will never forget.
Prague Shakespeare Company - by Kelsey Zafian.
This past spring, I made the decision to study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. If I am completely honest, I more or less expected the stereotypical amazing “study” abroad experience: maximum travel, minimal study. I packed my bags and was off come September, Now, reflecting on my time abroad, I would say I definitely had an amazing time, but not how I thought I would. This is due largely to my internship with Prague Shakespeare Company.
My internship added a whole new dimension to my time in Prague that I would have never anticipated. Thanks to Prague Shakespeare Company, I didn’t feel like just another American student living in an American bubble. I felt like I was truly established in Prague. True, yes, that Prague Shakespeare Company is an American owned and operated company, but that did not mean I was any less immersed in the working world of Prague. I was lucky enough to gain first-hand experience in operating a company in a foreign country. Not only did I have to figure out the new company I was a part of, but I also got to be a part of the company figuring out itself in this foreign environment. While this can sound difficult or maybe just confusing, I found it ultimately to be rewarding. I tapped into new workplace skills, such as flexibility, persistence, etc., that I had before coming to Prague, but never had to utilize to such a full extent. For that, I am very grateful.
So, did I get my typical study abroad experience? No. Don’t get me wrong, I still travelled plenty, but I also found myself a part of a much more worthy experience than anticipated. My time with Prague Shakespeare Company was a unique experience that I am so very thankful to have been a part of.