31 Mar Interning Abroad in Times of COVID-19 [Interview with Kalil]
We had the pleasure of interviewing Kalil Garcia, one of our current international interns that experienced the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak while living abroad in Spain. We believe this is a very insightful interview and will inspire many of you. A huge thanks to Kalil for his time!
Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Kalil Garcia. I grew up in Struthers, Ohio and have lived in Arizona for almost 5 years. I am a 4th year student from Northern Arizona University (NAU) majoring in Business Management and Spanish. I am a part of the Interdisciplinary Global Programs (IGP), a five-year double degree program that allowed me to spend 8 months abroad in Madrid, Spain.
Tell us about your internship abroad
An internship was found for me through Absolute Internship at the beginning of January 2020 and I quickly started at the end of the month. The parent company, “Science and Marketing”, is a Neuromarketing firm that houses the startup named “Hello Renewable”. Hello Renewable, is focused on reaching the masses with credible, unpartisan information regarding climate change and renewable energy all while giving the general public a way to easily get involved and do our part. My role as a Business and Social Media Development Intern has been to learn about and help facilitate all the things in the background.
"I work on things like revamping the business plan, speaking to suppliers, researching cutting edge technologies and gadgets that will eventually become available through the company, and extending the reach of our social media platforms."
How did your family react to you being in Spain during the outbreak of the virus?
When my family began learning that Spain was being affected by the outbreak of the virus, like many people in the United States, they didn’t take it as a severe threat because it was seen as something that seemingly wasn’t affecting the US yet. I, on the other hand, took it seriously and heavily monitored the situation from the get-go. As things in Spain started to become worse, my parents became increasingly concerned and needed more updates than usual to help give them a semblance of peace of mind. My mom later told me, after Spain’s death toll surpassed China’s, that she had never been more relieved that I had returned. I agreed.
How has your company been affected by the situation? What was their response?
My company adapted and adjusted swiftly and efficiently to this situation. We slowly moved to remote working more often throughout February when it became obvious that the virus was being transmitted faster in Spain - eventually, we were working completely from our homes. We had to halt operations with our products due to many of the suppliers being in China. Besides that, my boss worked well with everything going on and was very understanding of any concerns I had about the situation.
Did you want to stay in Spain? Why did you return to the US?
I have a love/hate relationship with my abroad experience. On one hand, the experience was far more difficult and nerve wracking than I thought it was going to be. On the other hand, I have seen so much of the world and grown exponentially as an individual. However, by the 6-month mark, I wanted to go home. If there’s anything that I will definitely miss it would undoubtably be Retiro Park, 100 Montaditos restaurant, and Mercadona super market. I was required to return to the United States as soon as Spain was raised to a Level 3 travel advisory. As I stated before, I was already worried and monitoring the situation in Spain and knew it would be better to return home. Therefore, when I got the “go ahead” from my university, I was more than ready to go.
How was your transition time, being an intern in Madrid to working remotely from home in the US?
My transition time from being an intern in Madrid to working remotely was very smooth as I stated before. Since my boss was so willing to work with me in Spain to transition to remote working, the only thing that was different when I returned to the United States was adjusting to the time difference.
How do you feel more prepared professionally?
Professionally, this situation has shown me how to adapt and communicate properly in the business realm. I have seen how operations shift and focus in on different sectors and how quickly businesses change so that they aren’t swept away in all the madness.
"The swift adaptability that this situation is forcing me to have is a skill that will never be unlearned."
How do you think this experience has changed you?
Before this epidemic swept the world, I was already struggling with anxiety. When the numbers started to rise, my anxiety rose with it. For around a month and a half I had been struggling with these stronger feelings of my chest tightening and the overwhelming sense that so much was out of my control and it wasn’t until last week that I was finally able to ease my mind and control my anxiety.
"If this experience has changed anything within me, it is that it has made me more resilient."
The amount of things that have changed in such a short amount of time, the places and opportunities that I left behind, the restrictions in place in the United States right now – so much has been out of my control and I have had to learn to be like water through it all.
"This experience has allowed me to be more cautious about and focus on and improve the things that I can actually control."
Are you uncertain about traveling the globe and interning in 2020? Enroll now to the Internship Program 2021 and save on the program fees with an early bird discount!