Ruby Hawliczek is a Master in International Sustainability Management student in her second year. For her internship, which is a mandatory part of her programme, she relocated to Lisbon, Portugal for 3 months. The internship was supported by the Erasmus+ Programme, which offers funding for internships abroad. We talked to Ruby and asked her about her experience with living and working abroad.
Why did you decide to do your internship in Lisbon and how did you find your internship placement?
I actually did not actively look for an internship in Lisbon. I was scrolling on LinkedIn and came across this opportunity that was a perfect match with my interests. I had planned on visiting Lisbon for a long time, but never had the chance, so when I saw that it would be in Lisbon I loved the idea of moving there for a couple of months rather than just traveling there for a weekend.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence the relocation process?
COVID-19 was quite stressful as nobody knew what was going to happen. The company signaled me early on that I could also do the internship remotely. However, since the internship was unpaid, one of the decisive factors was the location for me. In the end I had to postpone the starting date by a month, but that actually coincided well with the extension of my thesis deadline. Other than that, COVID-19 made it a lot easier and cheaper to find a room in Lisbon, so I can’t really complain.
How do you manage your finances?
As I mentioned before, the internship is unpaid. So learning about the Erasmus+ programme was a crucial factor in the decision-making process. If it had not been for that programme I might have favoured a paid internship over this one. However, I am glad that Erasmus+ allowed me to decide more freely based on my interests and let me have a whole new experience in another country.
- WORKING ABROAD
How has working in Portugal been?
The experience has been great. Luckily, the offices reopened by the time I arrived, so I get to go to the office every day and work with my colleagues.
Do you work in an international team? Does intercultural communication play any role?
Yes! The whole team is very international and consists of people from many different countries like Denmark, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Australia, India, Russia, Italy and Ghana. The company I work for is actually Danish, so the founders are currently located in Copenhagen. As for intercultural communication, I believe it is a highly important skill in such a diverse environment, but we have had no problems with that so far as most people on the team have had multiple experiences abroad.
- INTERCULTURAL EXPERIENCE
How was your experience abroad in general?
The beginning of my experience was a bit challenging. On the one hand, since the city was so empty, I had the unique chance to have the beautiful tourist attractions all to myself. On the other hand, meeting people and the experience of the famous, beloved “Lisbon vibe” with its vibrant street life, music and drinks was simply missing.
In fact, two weeks after my arrival the COVID-19 restrictions were increased again introducing a curfew for bars and restaurants, forbidding public drinking and limiting gatherings to 10 people following a spike in new cases. This made it more difficult to meet new people. But I was lucky enough to have great colleagues, so we still managed to make the best of it and have a great time by doing day trips and other explorations. Also, a fun coincidence was that a fellow ESCP student I had met in Paris last year moved into a room in our office with his startup.
Does language play a role in your everyday life? Do you speak Portuguese or you can manage with your English skills?
To be honest, Portuguese plays a very limited role in my everyday life. I am trying to learn a bit from my Brazilian friends, but generally people in Lisbon speak English very well so I have had no problems communicating.
What was the coolest experience you had during your internship?
One of my favourite experiences took place in Portugal’s beautiful nature. I climbed down this very steep rocky path, barefoot!, to get to an incredibly beautiful and secluded beach below. I had just fallen and injured my knee a couple of days earlier so it was really challenging and only worked thanks to my amazing friends assisting me, but so worth it! Another one of my favourite pastimes was hanging out at one of the many miradouros (viewing points) to watch the sunset and listen to people busking. I’m now looking forward to trying surfing and visit Porto and Algarve! It’s amazing how much Portugal has to offer.
Would you recommend doing an internship abroad? For other students out there, what would you say is the best way to prepare yourself for it?
I love exploring new places. I think few other situations allow one to make such a transformative experience while learning to adapt to all sorts of changes. Coming from ESCP most people will have experienced living in more than one country, but I think there is no limit to these experiences and they will be different and change you every single time.
Prepare yourself mentally: stay open and be ready for things to pan out differently than you expected. Of course, there are all those organisational things like finding housing, transportation and so on, but I think the mindset is more important. I would always recommend it to others. Lisbon is my fourth experience of working abroad and I love being able to immerse myself in the daily life of a completely foreign place.
For more information regarding Erasmus+ funding opportunities for internships, please contact Afrodita Bojadjieva, Erasmus+ Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.