It is January 2013, and I have the post-exchange blues. I have left behind the hot and humid Deep South of the US, where I have spent the last semester, and returned home to be greeted by the grey Swiss winter. This is no time to wallow in self-pity, though. I have to focus on looking for some work experience for the end of my Master’s course. That said, it is hard to resist the thirst for discovery brought on by spending a few months Stateside. My mind is made up: my work experience will also be abroad! My mobility advisor at the University of Lausanne business studies faculty (HEC) confirms that I am eligible for an Erasmus placement. It is now up to me to set about finding one somewhere in Europe – but where exactly? I would love another visit to Uncle Sam, but my family are not keen for me to move such a long way away again. Paris seems like a good compromise. I see on the Internet that a niche perfume brand based there is looking for a marketing intern. Following a Skype interview, I get a positive response and head for the French capital at the beginning of February.
I feel at home right from the start. I am given a wide range of tasks, from order management and customer relations to sales follow-up and web communications. Speaking the language obviously makes things much easier – perhaps even a little too easy. Luckily, I find challenges elsewhere. Dealing with bureaucracy, finding an apartment, writing a Master’s thesis and maintaining a balanced social life are not always easy when working in a foreign country.
Time has flown by. It is now five months since I slotted into a small and dynamic team that introduced me to the world of luxury goods and business. During these five months, I have learned what resourcefulness and determination really mean on a daily basis. As an intern and thus no longer a student, you are left to your own devices a lot more than on an academic exchange. Information on available internships and the hurdles you have to overcome to get one is hard to come by, but I would still advise against using agencies that specialise in foreign placements. Their services are very expensive, and above all it is ridiculous to think that an experience like this is something you can buy. All the same, you should not hesitate to take the leap. Do the research yourself, even if it takes a while to find your way around, because perseverance pays off, and every new experience opens doors. For me, this means another internship – this time in Germany!