Spanish and Politics student Keji tells us about turning a disappointing internship on the other side of the world into a positive experience for developing skills...
'As a student of Spanish and Politics I knew that it would be obligatory for me spend a year abroad in a Spanish speaking country. Initially I thought I would only have the option to ‘study’ abroad, however I was excited to discover that I was allowed to study abroad, complete a placement or do a combination of the two! In the end I chose a combination of the two and decided to study at a university in Santiago, Chile for two semesters and also complete an internship during the summer holidays that fell between the two semesters.
I made use of my department’s Placement Moodle page which provided us with a range of placement options in a wide range of Spanish speaking countries. I decided that I would like to find a placement in Latin America, so I focused on this region and consequently came across a placement that caught my attention. The placement that I chose was working In eco-tourism in a nature reserve in the Ecuadorian rainforest, which to say the least was a dream for me! I love nature, interacting with other people and also eco tourism, so it was the perfect placement. Due to the fact that the summer holidays in Chile were 3 months long and I had already dedicated two months to travelling around Patagonia and hosting my mum who came from the UK to visit me, I decided my placement would last for one month.
At the end of January, I packed my (large!) backpack and took a 5 hour flight from Santiago, Chile to Quito, Ecuador and I was eager to start my placement. When I first arrived at the lodge where the placement was, I was excited but also nervous because I was in a new country where I didn’t know anyone. However, I received a warm welcome from the team who were delighted at the fact that I spoke Spanish. Unfortunately, most interns that they had received in the past did not speak much Spanish and had no desire to practice and improve. I, on the other hand, was very determined to speak as much Spanish as I could!
Whilst I did receive a warm welcome from the small team at the lodge, after a few days I came to learn that the work that I had to undertake was not what I expected. This meant that I started to feel disappointed and unhappy quite quickly, especially because I had such high expectations initially. However, I decided to approach this as a challenge that I had to overcome. Realistically I didn’t have another option as it was far too expensive for me to change the date of my return ticket to Chile. I confided in my work colleagues that I got on with the most and tried to make the most out of the situation. Although, the work side was not what I expected, I was still able to practice my Spanish all day, every day with the team which helped me to gain more fluency and confidence. Furthermore, every single day the incredible nature that I was surrounded by in the rainforest never failed to impress me. From cool snakes to exotic weasels, I got to see a wide range of creatures that I’d never seen before.
The main take away from my placement was that sometimes when you are in a difficult situation all you can do is make the best of it. Try and find the positives amongst the negatives and focus on those things. My support network back home in the UK and in Chile were also very important and helped me through, when I felt like I wanted to quit and leave the placement. Looking back, I feel proud that I completed the placement and it has left me with the valuable skills of resilience and perseverance, both of which I’m sure will help me in my final year and in life.'