Internships Ahoy

My program with CIEE actually offered many internship options, although most were oriented towards political science majors. None looked interesting to me, so here comes Lesson Number One: Ask for help. I talked to two of my Art History professors, and both offered internships practically by the end of the week. If nothing quite suits you and you have something in mind- fix it! Ask for help! People love to help, and love free labor, so if you are just looking for experience this is a great way to go.

So after asking for help and receiving, I accepted the first job that came my way. At first working at the Hungarian National Archives for Art History sounded kind of boring, and even after the first few days it really felt boring. But Lesson Number Two: you can make any job fun just with your own outlook. My job was scanning documents into a digital system, which, as it happens, can be done at the same time as watching the first season of Friends on my laptop. So I still got the same amount of work done, but I did it while listening to a show, or sometimes Pimseleur language help for my Hungarian. I had friends who did similar things with their jobs (since not all problems can be solved with TV shows- especially since I was alone in a room with headphones I wasn’t distracting anyone and this is definitely not always true), just by being in a more positive state of mind and applying yourself, you can still have fun. Plus the documents I was scanning were from the late 1800s related to national art shows for up-in-coming painters of the day. Super cool!

Lesson Number Three, before I tell you about my second internship, is an important one: Don’t expect to get paid. These internships can be for credit or simply experience, but if you ask a professor to find you a paid job it will be less fun for everyone. But on the other hand, if you walk up to a professor saying “Look, I absolutely love art history and really want experience in the field be it volunteer work or an internship, would you be willing to help me,” I don’t think there is a single person who wouldn’t try to help you out. Professors love passion, and if you care and show that you care, they will help you.

I worked in that giant building on the hill! Aah!
I worked in that giant building on the hill! Aah!

This leads to the second internship that I got- the Hungarian National Gallery– aka Magyar Nemzeti Galeria. Just by asking a professor, I got to work in one of the most prestigious museums in Hungary, in a CASTLE so cool guys so cool. In any case, this leads to another point: Sometimes people accept interns without having any idea of what they want you to do. I loved this internship, but when I first got there they had no idea what to do with me. I edited and read through their website probably 10 times just looking for grammar mistakes on three different days until I suggested other ways I could help. So Lesson Number Four: Sometimes you have to make your own work. Ultimately I ended up writing a new section for their website and giving tours to English speaking tourists on Saturdays, but it took a while and some suggestions before these were my assigned jobs.

Me and my boss Fatima in the top floor of the Gallery in front of a statue of György Dózsa-- super creepy story you should look it up on wiki.
Me and my boss Fatima in the top floor of the Gallery in front of a statue of György Dózsa– super creepy story you should look it up on wiki.

But finally, the most important lesson I drew from having these internships is this, Lesson Number Five:

→ Do what you love.

Internships can be all kinds of fun – like that idiom says about “never work a day in your life,” right? So when you do find an internship, just make sure it meshes with your interests. Then every day will feel like learning and new experiences, and not like a real job. You should look forward to your internship and not dread it. I looked forward to both of mine because I still learned a lot and it was in an area I care about- I hope that if you choose to intern abroad it is so you can have some fun, too, and isn’t just for resume boosting.

Midterm Madness

One thing that everyone seems to forget while abroad is the fact that classes do exist, and that tests do exist. For me midterms just passed and everyone’s hair was absolutely on fire. We spent tons of time exploring and gaining the most out of our experiences… but everyone in my program also forgot that our classes are fairly difficult, and that we hadn’t quite caught up with the material by the time that the tests rolled around. There was a last minute cramming period the week before exams that none of us really saw coming. We all realized that our tests were going to be much harder than expected, and that on top of the difficulty levels they were all in quick succession and so we had no breaks in between to get more studying done.

With quarter system we are all used to tests being pretty close to each other, but we are also used to 4 classes and our expectations are manageable in terms of what is on the syllabus and what we expect on the study guide. But here we don’t know the teachers or their style, and also most colleges abroad are on semester system, which can also be a bit of a shock. More material on each test than we are used to, is basically what that means.

Not only do you need to learn to manage the tests in terms of spacing out studying, but you also need to learn the best ways to manage your stress. I don’t know if it is karma or some kind of murphy’s law, but some of the worst things happen when people are most stressed. For instance my suitemate got bed bugs by no fault of her own only two days before finals. Not only did she have to study, but she also had to fumigate her room, wash all of her clothes, bag everything that might have bugs, and find somewhere else to sleep. She was stressed and took it out on absolutely no one, but we all felt the stress and responded to it. Her room mates got angry at her/the world, and the rest of us in the suite tried to do damage control to little avail. Midterms and Finals are stressful times and you need to find a place where you can be alone and cope with your own stress without affecting anyone else. You miss home more, you miss your family and friends more, and you miss your usual routine for responding to stress.

My suggestions are these:

  1. Keep up with your studies as much as possible. Give yourself Thursday afternoons, or the few hours between classes to lock yourself away in a coffee shop to study. If you find a different coffee shop every time it is still exploring, and it helps you keep ahead of your studying so you don’t go completely under water when tests roll around.
    This is Mozaik, one of my favorite places to study in Budapest. It is in the Jewish Quarter and has a list of teas to die for. It is also a good place to “leave your mark,” since they recommend and urge you to draw on the walls with chalk. You cant see it in this image, but it is a total hoot. Very popular among travelers and Budapestens. (And free wifi! Sign me up!!) This is part of my study routine, since I love experimenting with new teas it is a good place to consistently travel to for the purpose of getting that reading done or finishing the other homework. etc.

    Mozaik can get a bit dark sometimes-- dreary weather and "mood lighting" aren't particularly conducive to reading light. But either way I happily work away in my nook.
    Mozaik can get a bit dark sometimes– dreary weather and “mood lighting” aren’t particularly conducive to reading light. But either way I happily work away in my nook.
  2. Give yourself a routine. If yoga helps you calm down, then do yoga during study breaks. If waking around in a park helps, then do that. Skype family, skype friends, do whatever it is that will help you calm down and re-center yourself.
  3. Don’t Panic. Let it go. Studies are important and you should still do your best, but if you end up with a B in the class then it isn’t that big of a deal. Calm down- just do the best you can and then don’t worry about it. I am not saying you should fail your classes, but it seems to me that you don’t have to keep yourself to your usual standards while abroad. You are in a new country, a new place with tons of things to do. If you have trouble balancing studies and exploration then just remember this: You are gaining multiple learning experiences. Even college at home has the duality of learning about yourself versus learning about your major. Yes, it is important to study math or science or business or what have you, but you went abroad to discover more than just that. Keep that in mind if you get a bad grade on a test, and move on. Do better next time, but don’t hold on to the past because it won’t help you in the future.

-Miranda Blank, DUSA Blogger