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.


One Year Later: My International Network

Sometimes it is difficult to see how the actions you choose to take right now can alter your future in life changing ways. When I studied abroad last year in Rome, I never expected the connections I made through my internship or a weekend school trip in Venice to completely shape the next few months of my post graduation life.

As a double major in Art History and Italian, Rome was an obvious choice to spend my year abroad. The internship program that my school offered was a huge factor in my decision to go there specifically.  During the fall semester I worked at the Capitoline Museums in the center of Rome, some of the most prestigious art establishments in all of Italy and the world, known for their incredible collection of ancient antiquity. Besides being an amazing resume booster, I was able to truly live everything I had been learning about in school, and it only solidified my passion for these fields. Besides being surrounded by the Italian language and beautiful art all day, I was able to experience the practical side of museology, and see how business was really conducted behind closed doors.

During my spring semester I visited Venice, the “Queen of the Adriatic”. I was excited for a weekend off from school and the hectic streets of Rome to play tourist in this watery city. One afternoon was spent in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, and I completely devoured all the wonderful 20th century art that I usually did not get to see. After a tour from a young American docent, she and I became very friendly and spoke about how she got this dream job at the museum. She is the one who turned me on to the possibility of living and interning in Venice, and idea I was completely unaware of. I returned home in July of 2010, months after meeting here, but I never forgot what she told.

So why am I enthusiastically sharing these experiences? Because of my original internship at the Capitoline in Rome and the fateful meeting I had at the Guggenheim in Venice, I am returning as paid intern this fall to Venice at the Guggenheim! Out of thousands of worldwide applicants, I was one of the ones chosen to participate in an all encompassing internship at this incredibly prestigious museum. Did I mention that’s it paid?  The importance of networking and interning abroad is crucial in laying down the foundation for future opportunities like mine. It’s not about your net worth, but your networks that will propel your career into the industry or profession you desire. I cannot express how important it is to take advantage of the many incredible internship opportunities available to you abroad, and to be more forward thinking to where they may take you later on in life!


Jillian Neilson, OIE Peer Advisor